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Just Bill RSS Feed (Grand Rapids, MI United States)

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Fire HD 7, 7" HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB - Includes Special Offers, Black
Fire HD 7, 7" HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB - Includes Special Offers, Black
Price: $139.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Misleading Color and Memory Availability...It's Black or Nothing!, May 9, 2015
UPDATE:

I forgot to mention that my first generation Kindle Fire HD has just been put out to pasture.

We had been trying to stream Netflix and Amazon Prime movies/TV shows to our HD TV - and getting frustrated in the process. The Netflix app often crashed, or told us we needed a high-speed connection to make it work (we have the fasted Internet connection possible for residents - 50Mbps). Plus, the shows frequently were so pixelated and clunky that we had to restart the Kindle frequently. Often, the episode just buffered endlessly.

We moved the cable modem and wireless to within 15 feet of the Kindle, thinking that may be helpful. It wasn't.

So we bought an Apple TV device - and were floored by the Blu-ray quality of the images. No buffering. No Netflax app crashes. The Apple TV device absolutely blew away the Kindle HD we were using.

My assessment is that the Kindle Fire HD (First Gen) wasn't built for speed, didn't have a fast enough processor, and had problems with wi-fi.

If you have been having rough, choppy streaming, slow connections, frequent app crashes, or buffering issues, it's likely because your Kindle Fire HD isn't up to the task. Buy an Apple TV device and enjoy super high-quality streaming without a hitch - in full surround sound.

I'll never go back to the Kindle Fire again - no matter what the generation. It's not good for streaming. We don't read books on it. And music doesn't sound all that great. In short, what's the point of having the Kindle Fire HD?

___

I bought the first generation Kindle Fire HD with the 7in screen. For the most part, it's operated okay - if a little slow and fussy at times. (More about that in a minute.)

I was going to buy the latest generation of the Fire HD 7in. But the availability reminds me of the old joke about Henry Ford making cars back in the day: "You can have any color you want, as long as it's black."

That's the case here.

Amazon advertises a multitude of colors and options. Yet, when I try to select a 16GB model in any color than black, I'm switched to an 8GB model or 6in screen model. Or, when I try to select the option of no advertising messages I'm shoved into the color black or 6in screen model. When it comes to those sponsored ads, what difference does it make what color or GB memory size I select?

I've been considering getting a new tablet, one with more memory or in other colors. I've kicked around an iPad, another Kindle, or a Samsung.

The fact that ordering the Kindle in any color other than black or size other than 8GB is near to impossible may tip the scale for me.

The Kindle Fire is okay. But I've owned iPads before and they're more powerful and now - thanks to the iPad Mini - just as light or lighter.

We use our Kindle Fire HD 7in for streaming Netflix or Amazon Prime movies/episodes. I've had problems keeping TV episodes on my Kindle Fire HD because Amazon keeps removing them. And I'm not talking about stuff I download from Prime. I'm talking about stuff I've paid for, that I allegedly "own." It sometimes turns up missing. I'd have to contact Amazon and explain what's going on. The rep would apologize and download it again for me. Later, it would disappear again.

Silk is an okay browser. But it's no Google. Plus, there are constant questions from the apps about how we want it to proceed.

The first gen Fire HD 7 was a great entry-level tablet for streaming stuff. But it's not all that good for reading (Paperwhite is superior for that purpose), and the battery runs out pretty quickly. We're constantly charging it - with a very short cord that makes using it while charging it difficult.

I may have taken up Amazon on their $99 price for a new HD 7. But, as I wrote, it's 8GB and black (with special offers) or nothing. There's so little memory available to users that the 8GB is not even close to what we'd need. Plus, I would have liked to have had more color choices than black.

I guess I'll try iPad or Samsung for my next tablet.

That's not a slight against the Kindle. It's been fairly reliable for what we use it for. But I think we need to try something new - even if it does cost 2-3 times more. You get what you pay for.


Physical Graffiti (Super Deluxe Edition Box CD & LP)
Physical Graffiti (Super Deluxe Edition Box CD & LP)
Price: $119.88
54 used & new from $99.70

11 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Enough Stars For Physical Graffiti. Too Many Stars For Misleading AutoRip Service. Buyer Beware!, February 24, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
UPDATE: I ordered the Physical Graffiti Super Deluxe box set. This time, Amazon's AutoRip digital download said "Remastered." Before, it did not. Apparently, my complaint helped Amazon change what they offered as the AutoRip of this set. I won't know if it's actually the same remastered tracks that come with the new box set until it arrives. All I know now is that it's an MPEG audio file (Layer 3) with a bit rate of 266 kbps (VBR).

This review is not for Physical Graffiti. That's one of the greatest albums ever recorded, and my second favorite Zeppelin album (after Houses of the Holy). This review is to point out the misleading, possibly illegal, wording of Amazon's AutoRip service.

I just spent an hour chatting with Amazon regarding this Super Deluxe Edition. I wanted to buy it now, and listen to the AutoRip download while waiting for the physical item to arrive.

Unfortunately, the AutroRip edition Amazon gives us is NOT the same as the one we buy - even though the copy next to the AutoRip icon says this: "Includes FREE MP3 version of this album." It's not "this album" AutoRip is for. It's THIS edition from 2010:

http://www.amazon.com/Physical-Graffiti-Led-Zeppelin/dp/B0011Z7JRU/ref=tmm_msc_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1424829417

I spent an hour getting bounced back and forth between some clown in digital/mp3 and various people in Customer Service. I explained to all of them that the three CDs in the Super Deluxe version should part of the AutoRip service because that's what it says: "this album." What I'm given for the AutoRip download should be the most recent remaster, from 2014 or 2015. But the person in digital/mp3 kept telling me all they could give me is what they had - an old edition of the digital download.

That's insane. Amazon's digital department could give me ANY CD they wanted to. I pointed out that this edition:

http://www.amazon.com/Physical-Graffiti-Deluxe-Led-Zeppelin/dp/B00RUT3DTE/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1424830389&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=physical+graffit

Was the closest to what was included in the Super Deluxe box set. The person in digital just kept saying, "We don't have that one. We only have this one," and he kept trying to give me the 2010 digital download of Physical Graffiti.

What's the point of AutoRip if what we're given is not what we've purchased??!?!? Does that mean EVERY time we use AutoRip we've given some inferior digital product? If so, then what does Amazon mean when it says, "Includes FREE MP3 version of this album." What album? If "this" does not mean what I just bought, what does "this" mean?

And doesn't this smack of bait-and-switch, an illegal activity? I wonder how many people have relied on Amazon's AutoRip service to give them what they just bought, only to discover later that the AutoRip edition wasn't what they just bought? For example, if we buy a remastered edition of a favorite CD, one that includes AutoRip with it, but what they give us is some older, non-remastered edition, then isn't that bait-and-switch?

In this case, whatever edition Amazon digital was trying to give me wasn't the most recent, presumably the best, remaster of Physical Graffiti. That's what I wanted to hear now while I waited for the box set to arrive. But Amazon has no intention of giving me the newly remastered edition as part of the AutoRip feature.

Somebody needs to look into this. It's illegal to promise one thing but deliver another.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 20, 2015 11:04 PM PDT


Doctor Who: Season 8
Doctor Who: Season 8
DVD ~ Peter Capaldi
Offered by Mat-Su Media
Price: $47.99
19 used & new from $46.71

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Worst. Doctor. Ever. (And the most lackluster season of the rebooted Doctor series.), January 27, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Doctor Who: Season 8 (DVD)
CAUTION: CONTAINS SPOILERS.

My wife and I are Whovians of the highest order. We streamed every episode free thanks to Amazon Prime. Then, we bought the Doctor Who Complete Series 1-7 Blu-Ray set with the sonic screwdriver remote once we got hooked on it.

It took us awhile to get into Christopher Eccleston's Doctor. But having Rose as his Companion sure helped a lot. Whatever the reason, we got sucked into Doctor Who and started watching. All of them. Night after night.

For us, the high-water mark for Doctors was David Tennant. And the best companion was a toss-up between Rose and Donna.

Matt Smith was a good Doctor, with a unique voice. Yet, we were tired of him by the end of his reign as the Doctor. He just got too goofy and childish. He seemed more like a kid than a Time Lord. But Amy Pond was a great Companion.

When Peter Capaldi was announced as the new Doctor, we were skeptical. He seemed way too old. But we gave him the benefit of the doubt and bought Season Eight on Blu-ray and watched it.

Oh. My. God.

We fell asleep during every single episode! Seriously. We never finished one episode, never got hooked, never got excited, never sat on the edge of our seats waiting to see what would happen next.

In short, we were bored to ever-lovin' tears. Even the last episode of the season - which should have been a cliff-hanger that made us want to watch more - was a huge flop.

Here's why Doctor Who Season 8 is off the rails and will require massive changes to win us back:

1. Steven Moffat's writing is terrible. Maybe he's stretched too thin. Maybe his mojo is gone. Maybe he was never that good to begin with. But the best writing for Doctor Who sprang from the pen of Moffat's predecessor, Russell T Davies. That man could pen drama, comedy, suspense - you name it. Moffat is the Michael Bay of Doctor Who: bombastic, heavy-handed, and loud.

2. Peter Capaldi hasn't the voice to be Doctor Who. His voice has two settings: loud and soft. No dramatic inflections. No depth. He's hard to hear, hard to understand, and not really worth listening to. Even when he's trying to do all those fast-talking asides to himself like Tennant, he's not even remotely captivating because he just can't pull them off. He has a monotone voice that is NOT very Doctor Who-like.

3. Jenna Colman (Clara Oswald) has more lines, more energy, and more authority than the Doctor does. And that's a bad thing. Because Jenna is no Billie Piper or Catherine Tate. She's shrill. Yet, there can be no doubt that she's the star of Season 8. She's carrying the show now.

4. The first episode was so on the nose that it was disgusting. An old Doctor Who and a dinosaur in London? Come on. Then, the entire rest of the episode featured dialogue about how old the Doctor is and how Clara had to learn to accept him. Nothing like the writer of a TV show lecturing viewers about accepting the new Doctor despite his age! Then, on top of that, the unforgivable sin...

5. No chemistry, no spark, between the Doctor and his Companion. No flirting. No potential romance. No snappy repartee. Just a very old, grumpy Doctor, a flippant Companion, and absolutely no reason why the two of them are paired together.

6. As if all of that wasn't bad enough, the storyline between Clara and Danny was laughable. She meets, falls instantly and madly in love with a fellow teacher, and snubs the Doctor. It all happened too quickly. No build-up. No chemistry between Danny and Clara. No spark. So, when Danny is killed, no one cares. Why should they? We - like Clara - barely knew the guy! In the last two episodes, Danny becomes a Cyberman, but one with a conscience. He spares Clara's life. But he still has to die, as all Cyberman must. So Danny and Clara have a proper good-bye - tearful on their part; a big yawn on our part. Then Danny gets a voice over to pontificate about God knows what. But it seemed to drag on forever because we didn't care about Danny. Why? Because Moffat spent no time developing the relationship between Danny and Clara.

7. The Clara/Danny relationship is a microcosm of the entire season: rushed, shallow, haphazard, lacking substance...ultimately, phoney.

Of the rebooted Doctor Who seasons, Season 8 is the worst. By a landslide. Sadly, I don't know how it's going to get any better unless Moffat ditches Capaldi and/or Coleman - or digs deep in his bag of tricks to create stories that move, captivate, and entertain.

We were very disappointed with Season 8, so much so that we're not looking forward to Season 9.


Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella
Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella
DVD ~ Ginger Rogers
Price: $9.99
41 used & new from $5.98

101 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cinderella from my childhood is still the best, September 28, 2014
For me, this will always be THE version of Cinderella.

I was five when Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella came out and - ever since - I have had a crush on Lesley Ann Warren. In this version of the timeless classic, Lesley is radiant. No actress before or since has so embodied the innocence and magic of a role - and she captured my heart because of it.

Production-wise, don't look for Disney standards. This is not a multi-million dollar production with CGI, special effects, and animation. It looks like an old 1960s-era Hallmark Hall of Fame production with cheap sets and garish costumes. It's, essentially, little more than a filmed stage production. You can almost see the wires and joists holding up the backdrops.

But, O the Magic!

That's where this version of Cinderella succeeds. It is the epitome of childhood magic, of dreams come true. In those respects, it is priceless.

Helping to weave that spell is a cast that's quite respectable for a made-for-TV movie. In addition to Lesley, this movie features Stuart Damon as the prince, Celeste Holm as the fairy godmother, Ginger Rogers as the queen, and Walter Pidgeon as the king...and songs that haven't left my head in half a century. The Rodgers & Hammerstein score is so much fun!

To watch this version of Cinderella today (as I am this evening), requires imagination, and a desire to be see the world through a child's eyes. I can attest to both.

I am 54 years old. But I am five again when I watch this version of Cinderella.

I couldn't ask for more from a movie than that.

This is a treasure.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 2, 2015 12:05 PM PDT


Amazon Fire Phone, 32GB (AT&T)
Amazon Fire Phone, 32GB (AT&T)

27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Take a good look at the 1-star reviews - they're all the same wording, but from different people!, September 28, 2014
How was someone able to spam hundreds of 1-star reviews for this phone?

Look at the 1-star reviews. With minor variations, the wording for all of them is the same. Something about the environment and "dirty" energy or this and that. It's hogwash. Total hogwash. Amazon is no "dirtier" environmentally than Apple or Samsung or any other corporation. "Fossil fuels"? What company doesn't use "fossil fuels" in its day-to-day operations?

Either somebody figured out a way to spam reviews and manipulate the rating for a product (which is a scary thought on a number of levels; not least of which is that it means we can't trust Amazon's review system), or else some activist organization urged hundreds and hundreds of people to post the same drivel to impact Amazon and drive down its rating to cause the company to lose money.

I think it's the latter. Look at the reviewers who posted these 1-star reviews. Most of them have only posted one review - against the Amazon Fire Phone. That tells me they were urged (paid?) to do so by person or persons unknown.

Now it's going to be nearly impossible to tell if the Amazon Fire Phone is worth buying or not.

I don't own it. And the reason why is NOT because of the phony 1-star reviews. It's because of the well-written, well-balanced 4- and 5-star reviews. the "cons" column revealed reasons that caused me to hold off on this product until the quirks, bugs, and limitations are worked out.

Why the 3-star review? Because I - like many of you who already own several Kindles - would LIKE TO own it. But according to reviews I trust, it's just not ready yet.

Whatever the Amazon Fire Phone's limitations or quirks, it doesn't deserve to be ratings-bombed by people who were either paid to post dishonest reviews, or who aren't really people at all, but sophisticated bots.

Either way, I'd urge people who might be considering this phone to NOT look at the average rating, but at the 4- and 5-star reviews, as I did. Decide based on those, not on the phony 1-star reviews.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 5, 2014 12:36 PM PDT


Ashes of Ares
Ashes of Ares
Price: $12.99
33 used & new from $6.44

5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Album That Combines Elements of Power Metal, a Bit of Prog Metal, And a Hint of Thrash, August 28, 2014
This review is from: Ashes of Ares (Audio CD)
The debut album from Ashes of Ares surprised me.

Given the pedigree of the band (ex-Iced Earth vocalist Matt Barlow, ex-Iced Earth bassist Freddie Vidales, ex-Nevermore drummer Van Williams) I expected the album to sound like what you'd expect it to sound like: Iced Earth meets Nevermore, which wouldn't be a bad thing. But it just wouldn't be essential listening. I mean, we already have Iced Earth and Nevermore, right?

The surprise in this worthy debut came from three areas:

1. The astounding musicianship, with riffs so big that if the Presidents on Mount Rushmore had hands to hold guitars, I'm sure they'd be playing these riffs. In addition, the drumming is powerful, with equal parts complexity and groove. And there's a nice bottom end to the bass that holds it all together. The riffs are not the triple-time chugging common to Iced Earth, either. They're more like Sabbath or Nevermore. Nice and crunchy.

In addition, the recording itself (courtesy of Jim Morris at Morrisound Studios - the long-time producer of Iced Earth's material) is exemplary. That also surprised me. Morrisound has a unique style. I was expecting the musicians and the producer to create something that sounded like the aforementioned Iced Earth meets Nevermore - with emphasis on Iced Earth. Happily, that's not the case. This doesn't sound like Iced Earth. Ashes of Ares is brighter, deeper, and more compelling.

2. The remarkable vocals, which further proves that Matt Barlow is one of metal's most valuable assets. His vocal range is intact and every bit as mind-blowing as it always was. He truly is an amazing singer, with the ability to be expressive and mellow one moment and a banshee the next, hitting notes that only dogs can hear.

3. The songwriting, which is mature, compelling, and even magical. It's hard to pick a favorite from these 11 tracks. I like the interplay of acoustic guitar, lead guitar, and bass of "This Is My Hell." It has a Horror Show (from Iced Earth) feel to it. But with more of a punch. I also like "Dead Man's Plight," the follow-up track. There are some really fascinating components to this song, a few passages that astound (like around the 2:25 mark). When the riff, guitar solo, and drums kick in (around the 2:52 mark), I love the crispness of the drums (especially the cymbals) and the head-banging rhythm. This song probably kicks major keister in concert.

The open of the seventh song ("Chalice of Man") hints at thrash, a la Testament.

The opening of the tenth track ("The One-Eyed King") hints at prog metal. It's complex and meaty, with a Dream Theater- or even Megadeth- like feel to it.

Bottom line: Ashes of Ares is a powerful, magical melding of musicians that turn this debut into something greater than the sum of its parts.

Oh, one more thing. Ashes of Ares has an overall positive vibe to it, which is another surprise - especially given the bands these three musicians came from. There's something upbeat about this music, almost as if the band sees a ray of hope in the day-to-day darkness of the world.

I wholeheartedly recommend this album!


The Dangers of Rick Warren's Daniel Plan: Dr. Oz, Dr. Amen, & Dr. Hymen--the New Age/Eastern Meditation Doctors behind the Saddleback Health Program
The Dangers of Rick Warren's Daniel Plan: Dr. Oz, Dr. Amen, & Dr. Hymen--the New Age/Eastern Meditation Doctors behind the Saddleback Health Program
Price: $1.75

43 of 55 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The only "danger" evident to me is listening to people like Warren B, August 20, 2014
This book proves Warren B. Smith has an agenda - to continually try to slander Rick Warren.

Smith isn't interested in the truth. Or even in helping people lose weight. Smith wants everyone to think he's right and Rick Warren is wrong...even regarding something as innocuous as a weight-loss program.

The only "danger" evident to me is listening to people like Warren B. Smith tear down everything and everyone that doesn't believe as he does. That's absolutely frightening.


James Gandolfini: The Real Life of the Man Who Made Tony Soprano
James Gandolfini: The Real Life of the Man Who Made Tony Soprano
by Dan Bischoff
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.29
66 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Actor, Not-So-Great Book, July 8, 2014
I read this book through at Barnes & Noble while waiting for a movie to start at the local theater.

Something about it seemed off. It smacks of tabloid journalism.

When it was finished, I don't think I gained any insight into Mr. Gandolfini's life - except for the unseemly bits, like drug abuse or alcoholism. Typical tabloid stuff.

Everything about the book reads like I'm scanning headlines on magazines at the checkout counter, or entries on Wikipedia. It has that kind of emotional detachment from the subject matter.

Frankly, if not for said subject matter - the late, great James Gandolfini - this book would be laughed out of bookstores.

James Gandolfini seemed to be a nice guy. By all accounts, he was a regular guy who just happened to be an exceptionally gifted actor.

But you won't find that out by reading this book.

If you're on the bubble about buying "The Real Life Story of the Man Who Made Tony Soprano," I'd say leaf through at your local book store. But don't buy it. It's just not worth it.


Hard Choices
Hard Choices
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $13.99

33 of 55 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Leafed Through At B&N...And Laughed Myself Silly, June 22, 2014
This review is from: Hard Choices (Kindle Edition)
Hillary Clinton is as big a liar as her husband - as evidenced by this novel of how she thought her life has been going to this point.

Oh, wait. It's not a novel. It's supposed to be a non-fiction book.

That's why I was laughing.

Anyone who's said and done the things Hillary Clinton has should never write a book like this. Her handling of Benghazi will haunt her the same way Chappaquiddick haunted Ted Kennedy, and for the same reasons. Her cowardice cost the lives of four Americans that tragic night. Then came the coverups. And lies. She will never live down what she did (and did not do) regarding Benghazi.

And that's not even counting the horrendous example she's set for women. By sticking with her philandering husband for political reasons, helping him discredit all of the women he fooled around with, she set back women's rights a hundred years.

She is a terrible excuse for a human being, let alone a leader of any kind.

I will not buy this book.

But it did provide me with a lotta laughs. That much I'll give her.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2014 5:56 PM PDT


Comparative Mysticism: An Anthology of Original Sources
Comparative Mysticism: An Anthology of Original Sources
by Steven T. Katz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $148.07
31 used & new from $146.52

3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars $134.89??!?!?!?!, May 12, 2014
This book would have to contain handwritten notes from the creator of the universe him/her/it self for it to be worth the price asked.

Either that, or it would have to be bound in the finest calfskin leather, autographed by 14 of the world's most renowned sages, and hand-delivered by the author. In addition, each purchase would have to be an entry into a sweepstakes drawing for a chance to win a trip to seven of the world's most mystical places, with the Dalai Lama being the guide through Tibet.

Short of all that, there's no way I'll pay nearly $140 - down from a full retail price of $175! - for a regular ol' book published April 12, 2013.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 29, 2014 9:31 PM PDT


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