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rob RSS Feed (somewhere in the south)

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Frontier Hibiscus Flowers Cut and Sifted Organic, 1 Pound
Frontier Hibiscus Flowers Cut and Sifted Organic, 1 Pound
Price: $13.25
30 used & new from $12.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great deal on a hard-to-find tea, March 8, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I have been trying out hibiscus teas to lower BP. I have not drawn my own conclusions as to the efficacy of that "therapy," and I'm certainly not going to comment on it here. I will say that hibiscus teas are not easy to find locally in my semi-large metropolitan market, and when I can find them they are both expensive and mixed with numerous things besides hibiscus, which makes it hard to determine "dosage" semi-empirically. I've had a few cups from my new Frontier bag o' flowers and it definitely compares in flavor and apparent quality with the most expensive hibiscus teas I've tried out, at a price that is literally 1/6th to 1/7th of the pre-bagged high-end teas per serving. It is clearly of much better quality than some of the cheaper hibiscus bags I've tried out, which are hardly grocery-store cheap either. Definitely the best deal I've found so far.

Hibiscus tea does seem bitter to me, and this is a guy who has been drinking black coffee and eating seriously dark chocolate all his life. As a tip to those who don't want to add sweeteners / dairy / etc. to their tea to mitigate that bitterness, may I suggest you try a bag / cup-sized dispensation of decent rooibos in the cup along with the hibiscus. The two seem to complement each other very well, with the bitterness of the hibiscus being smoothed by the body of the rooibos, relegating that bitterness back to an interesting fruity note. I have been a rooibos drinker for years as well, but I lately I enjoy the rooibos-hibiscus cocktail even better than straight rooibos! Of course, the gorgeous red-violet color of pure hibiscus tea is sort of lost with the rooibos in the mix, but oh well.

SMAKN® 50mm Full-Height Mini PCI-E MSATA SSD to 1.8 inch MICRO SATA MSATA
SMAKN® 50mm Full-Height Mini PCI-E MSATA SSD to 1.8 inch MICRO SATA MSATA
Offered by SMAKN
Price: $7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Yep, definitely too small, February 16, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Well, I took the reviews that said this thing was a too-small / loose fit into account, and thought that I still might try it in hopes of saving twenty bucks vs. the form-fit competition. On arrival, I installed this in a Thinkpad T410S, which expects the drive to fit in the bay like a self-supporting cartridge. It was tricky getting it into the slot, because the thing was basically free-floating, but I got it in. Once installed in that little drive-bay void, though, the adapter presses down at an angle against the bay wall and constantly rattles around against the inside of the bay when you so much as type lightly. I'm shocked that the machine hasn't lost connection with the SSD yet, but I'm not going to assume I will be so lucky forever (or even for another day or two). Guess I should have listened to the folks saying this was way too small.

This would work great if you do NOT have a cartridge-style 1.8" bay which expects the drive to fill out a bay / support its own volume (no nerd-pun intended), like the Thinkpad I've got. It would also work great if you have a 3D printer and can print out the bracket that another reviewer has so generously shared with the world here. I do not yet have a 3D printer. I was tempted to whittle some kind of wood bracket, but... you know what, life is short and the properly-fitting competition isn't *that* expensive.

Offered by Peachtree Woodworking Supply Inc
Price: $25.99

5.0 out of 5 stars I would have been better off if I'd had clamps handy as the mfr ..., November 21, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Finally got around to putting these on my Delta 28-150, which I had to do by my lonesome because neither my spouse nor any of my friendset are interested in helping me revive tools that are my problem. The tires were indeed a difficult solo install, even with an extended 180F warm water bath and extensive pre-stretching of the tires. I would have been better off if I'd had clamps handy as the mfr suggests in their instructions; unfortunately, I was in one place with the bandsaw, my clamp collection was another place entirely. I did finally manage to get them on by carefully using a screwdriver along with a combination of tenacity and sheer desperation.

Once I finally had them roughly on, I still had a notable bit of further work to get them riding fully and smoothly in the tracks, which I mostly did with a smaller straight screwdriver and my fingernail. They look great now and are clearly very durable based on the further, especially violent round of pre-stretching they endured when I started to get really frustrated.

I'm tempted to give them a bit less than five stars, but that seems petty; I'm not convinced it's possible to make this product in a manner that avoids a trying install, or at least not to make one that's any good.

Trying to change these out on at least my old Delta without removing the wheels would be, I should think, darn nigh impossible. If you have the same Delta model, hope you have some usable snap ring pliers to get the wheels out- a screwdriver sure wasn't gonna do it. I bought the HF snap ring pliers specifically to get the wheels out - that cheap tool is also darn near useless, but I finally met with some success after twentyish add'l minutes, a few new little dings in the wheel bearings, and a whole lot of swearing.

Sunken Condos
Sunken Condos
Price: $11.41
151 used & new from $2.27

4.0 out of 5 stars Fagen finally (sort of) reckons with modernity, November 21, 2015
This review is from: Sunken Condos (Audio CD)
I've been a raging Steely Dan fan since I was 18... in 1994. Since then I've had a lack of success converting others, even my musician peers, in in my age group, which-- per observation of the crowd around me at the SD show I went to last year-- is about 20-30 years removed from the average SD fan. I hypothesize that for most of them, the clinical-of-their-time sonics are the primary issue they can't get past. The early 00s reunion albums and later Fagen solo efforts aren't much help as gateway drugs; sure, they're cleanly recorded for THEIR time period, but they also sound like Muzak to the uninitiated.

I suspect that Sunken Condos is as close to a bridge between the not-really-all-that-young-anymore "younger" generation of possible new fans and the canonical world of SD as we're ever likely to get. Fagen hasn't made a record that sounds as sonically comfortable in the current moment since The Nightfly.

...That is not to say that he's not still primarily *writing* in his expected idiosyncratic / anachronistic vein. But I can see some of this album, at least, getting farther with a 30something listener; I've seen the outright revulsion that often occurs on first exposure to, say, Aja for the same listener, and I don't see this as likely to generate that reaction.

It's a production thing. The arrangements are absolutely top notch and shouldn't disappoint any Fagen/Dan fan; this is to say, the thing may still ultimately be far too decadent for those outside the cult. But the record at least has a surface-level feel that should, hypothetically anyway, be more familiar and easy to swallow for the uninitiated than any other Fagen effort I can think of.

For instance, putting "Slinky Thing" right up front, with its borderline golden-age-of-hip-hop feel (how many upright basses do you hear on older Fagen/SD songs?), was a really smart move along those lines... although I do wish, like so many other armchair pundits, that Fagen would finally leave the older-dude-younger-lady theme off the table after 35 post-"Hey Nineteen" years of beating said theme to death. Even Trent Reznor figured out at some point that he maybe ought to write lyrics about something other than being kinda upset about his personal life.

How does this record fare for someone who ALREADY likes Fagen's work? Pretty darned well, at least for this extant fan. Unlike most people, I absolutely detest "Weather in my Head;" I have no use for Fagen's thankfully rare journeys into straight-up twelve-bar blues form. Other than that, I find this album is largely comprised of the most convincing new *material* Fagen's done since The Nightfly, with the strongest entries reserved for the latter half.

"The New Breed" contains some of the most intriguing harmonic language Fagen's ever dabbled in; "Good Stuff" not only grooves wonderfully, but is the great "Glamour Profession" sort of narrative I wish Fagen would wheel out more often; even the slightly weaker "Planet D'Rhonda" (yet another but-she's-so-young paean, sigh) is absolutely made by a jaw-droppingly great track-long solo from Kurt Rosenwinkel that might just go down for me as the best guitar solo ever found on any SD/Fagen release... although that's a tough call to make, obviously.

The same things that make this record more "approachable" from a production perspective are the things that disappoint me a little sonically. There is no doubt that this is extremely well-recorded by 201x standards. That means the mix is willfully shallow, with all the details of the arrangement dynamically pressed face-first against the window (unlike a vintage SD recording, where the sordid details are left for the listener to find on repeat listenings and/or repeated system upgrades).

And I like a good solid kick drum as much as anybody, but the kick in particular is a big problem for me on this record. It's mixed so far forward and over-the-top scoop-EQ'd that the first adjective to my mind by track 3 or 4 is "headache-inducing."

But for me, this mix is the about the best "modern style" mix one could hope for - which still means that, personally, I'd save my money rather than springing for the vinyl edition; the contemporary "flattened" style of mixdown just doesn't work at all on wax in my humble opinion. I still prefer the mix on this to the two new-millennium reunion SD records, which sounded great in their own way but incredibly dated to me even at the time of their release.

Overall, though, I find this is just a great album. I'm giving the CD to at least one whippersnapper bandmate for the holidays, in the hopes that maybe this will be the Fagen effort that will finally take for him.

Mediabridge USB 2.0 - A Male to B Male Cable (16 Feet) - High-Speed with Gold-Plated Connectors - Black - (Part# 30-001-16B )
Mediabridge USB 2.0 - A Male to B Male Cable (16 Feet) - High-Speed with Gold-Plated Connectors - Black - (Part# 30-001-16B )
Offered by Mediabridge Products, LLC
Price: $7.49
2 used & new from $5.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Great cable, November 20, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is the only 15' USB cable I've owned that my USB-powered MIDI controllers (keyboards) will consistently tolerate. I've tried out plenty of such cables. I have another couple of these on my shopping list, because if this one goes bad I'll be hosed at the next gig - but so far so good there too!

Samson SR850 Professional Studio Reference Headphones
Samson SR850 Professional Studio Reference Headphones
Offered by Pitbull Electronics
Price: $49.99
19 used & new from $49.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comfy daily drivers (a musician's perspective), November 20, 2015
I am a musician / frugal audiophile and have tried an awful lot of headphones at sane price points. If you've done any research you know that these are most likely rebadged / OEM Superlux phones based on the HD 681 design (and at this point, Samson is hardly the only one). I do not own any Superlux phones so cannot compare directly. However, I've had a pair of SR850s for four years or so now, which I bought specifically to "test" the slightly pricier Superlux line.

I didn't use the Samsons much for quite a while because I found them to be a bit on the bright side overall. They seem to have mellowed slightly with further use - well, that, or I've adapted to them. I find the phones are very comfortable for extended wear, if a little warm as to be expected with this earpad style. These are decent phones to do late-night mixdowns on as long as you cross-check the subsequent mix on a pair of monitors the next day before dropping your track on the Internets; I would not describe them as exceedingly detailed (while simultaneously still wishing they had a bit less high end emphasis), but they are certainly clean and well-balanced / neutral enough to get meaningful work done, especially once you've spent a little time learning them as you should with any monitoring tool. Durability has also been good for me, at least.

(If you've noticed me saying "bright" twice, by the way, I would still reach for the Samsons over a pair of, say, MDR-7506s. Now *those* well-known phones are WAY too bright for me.)

Sure, a detachable cable would be nice. It'd also be nice if Samson would offer a completely sealed version at a similar price point; leakage is just enough that I would not use these for vocal tracking. But the Samsons do offer a pretty respectable value, and they would certainly be great for backup reference phones or in-room clients.

StrongArm 4280  Universal 19.69" Ext. 150 Extended Length Lift Support - Pack of 1
StrongArm 4280 Universal 19.69" Ext. 150 Extended Length Lift Support - Pack of 1
Price: $17.22
9 used & new from $17.11

5.0 out of 5 stars Wish I'd bought these sooner, November 3, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I am not the most mechanically astute person, but I had a pair of these on my '04 Elantra GT in about fifteen minutes, with a tall friend and some stray lumber helping me keep the hatch up. As others have written, with the Elantra at least it's easiest to unbolt the brackets that hold the old arms to the body, then snap the new arms onto that bracket first, bolt the bracket back on, and finish the job by snapping the new arms onto the hatch. The new arms snap on Lego-style; the only tools you really need are something like a straight screwdriver to pry the clips off the old dead lift arms and a 12mm socket if you're unbolting / reinstalling the brackets.

Just a great cheap and easy fix. I couldn't find these parts at the local auto parts chain shops and I suspect they would have cost easily twice as much even if I could have.

Arms appear to be of equivalent quality to the OEMs that lasted nearly a decade, but time will tell. I'm just so glad I can load my bass rig into the hatch again without a second person helping, and/or without breaking my back and skull.

Nektar Impact LX61 61 note USB keyboard controller with pre-mapped integration for Cubase, Digital Performer, Garageband, Logic, Sonar & Studio One
Nektar Impact LX61 61 note USB keyboard controller with pre-mapped integration for Cubase, Digital Performer, Garageband, Logic, Sonar & Studio One
Price: Click here to see our price
11 used & new from $182.99

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Questionable key feel and design decisions, October 28, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Honestly, I've been a bit disappointed with the LX61; I went back and forth on returning it, and eventually the deadline just slipped past me. Feedback and reviews on the LX line have been pretty good across the Internet, especially with regard to key feel (which is a personal thing, and which I'll get to). Some of this probably has to do with the fact that the LX line does offer a pretty respectable amount of flexibility and control overall for the money.

Some of this also likely has to do with just how pathetic the new-controller market has become as a whole. The LX may look and seem pretty good in the context of the 201x controller market. But if you are an experienced (aging?) keyboardist and you've played much of its competition, you also likely know that really isn't saying very much. These things are all being made to an admittedly brutal price point with a clear focus on home recording over live performance; concern for feel of the keybed in particular is going right out the window. I'd been led to believe that Nektar maybe had the right idea in this department, and I'm sad to report that as a now-owner of an LX61, I feel quite misled.

Some technical concerns and complaints first: The LX61's UI is surprisingly inconsistent and frequently baffling. I have nearly 30 years of experience with MIDI and cut my sysex teeth on outboard hardware devices that have since become legendary as "hardest X to program/control, like, ever." So I'm not an idiot with this stuff. The LX could be a lot easier to use with a couple of very minor changes.

Specifically, there *should* be silkscreening behind the keybed to indicate the nearly two dozen functions and global parameters that can only be accessed through a combination of "alt" key + a single note on the keybed. There is no such labeling - not so much as terse / abbreviated hints, or even any marking indicating that these keybed keys are assigned to any particular function(s) at all.

In other words, unless your memory is better than mine, you'll basically need the manual with you at all times to adjust anything you might reasonably need to adjust on the gig or in the studio. The 3-digit numeric LED display isn't much help at all in clarifying what's going on if you should choose instead to hunt and peck on stage through the unmarked "function key range" trying to find the particular adjustment you're looking for.

Granted, MANY MIDI controllers have similar problems to an extent; I just don't understand why so many important functions weren't silkscreened onto the LX's front panel. This surely wasn't a space-on-the-panel consideration, either. I have 25-key controllers a fraction of the size that are much more clear about how to get into functions that are triggered by Fn + white/black keys.

Further, once *in* a parameter edit mode, UI behaviors are frequently and wildly inconsistent. Why is there an (*actually* labeled!) pair of keys for increment/decrement in the middle of the keyboard that don't actually seem to *do* anything in most parameter adjustments you can call up? (More often, you'll need the octave +/- or transpose +/- keys to do such incremental adjustments instead... but, uh, which pair? Well, uh, it depends!)

Nektar's policy on user downloads of what amounts to "necessary" support software should also be noted. This is not a big pet peeve since I actually *don't* need DAW integration for my purposes, but it's still pretty annoying to me. If you want to get your LX working with your DAW, you are REQUIRED to sign up with an account on Nektar's website-- providing personal info in the process-- AND register / associate your account with your specific model before you can download any support templates at all. I am guessing this is an attempted bandwidth-control measure on Nektar's part. It's a stupid one.

I am also annoyed by the fact that, in my use case anyway (REAPER), what you get for a "template"" is an .exe file that seems to install hundreds of scripts to ostensibly support every VST/VSTi ever. I guess I can applaud Nektar for going so obviously in-depth to come up with mappings for all these products, but... you know what? I really don't want to run an .exe, nor risk messing up my clean REAPER install with all this black-box configuration. If *any* DAW makes such antiquated measures completely unnecessary, after all, it's REAPER. REAPER users are nerds who like to know about and control absolutely everything they're installing... or so it would seem from watching my compatriates on the REAPER forums.

Finally, since I have the most to say on this topic: the praise for the key feel on the LX line was something that really stood out to me for over a year before I finally purchased an LX61. Not everyone was positive, but the majority of reviewing owners seemed to be. As objectively as I can describe it, the key feel on my LX61 is like a Hammond organ or a Nord Electro-something, but with shallower key travel.

I would not normally compare a "typical" synth action to a Hammond, BTW. While still hardly ideal for playing piano sample sets, there is usually much more pushback from the key when depressed on most synth-style actions and well-made MIDI controllers I've played over the last 30ish years. The LX61 has very little to offer in the way of return tension, and may have even less pushback than a Hammond. This might work well if you're playing Hammond lines, maybe, but in my mind it's far from ideal for anything else. I actually don't particularly like the LX's action for Hammond parts (or, for that matter, synth lines) either. There just isn't enough key travel, and the result feels quite mushy and uninspiring to me.

I also tried just about every velocity response curve in the box trying to make myself happy with piano samples or Rhodes emulations. Didn't find anything I particularly liked. On most controllers I've owned, I don't even need to dig in on the curve - I find I just adjust within a few minutes, but that didn't happen on the LX. At first I thought maybe there was a wild velocity inconsistency, but further "empirical" tests repeatedly playing passages as consistently as possible and looking at the resulting MIDI data have seemingly disproven that (although one other reviewer I've seen noted a difference between white and black key response, and that issue *does* seem to be there, if quite slight and unlikely to be the source of my malcontent with the velocity response). I just suspect the curves the LX ships with are just poorly designed and/or tested/implemented for most piano sample sets etc.

Please be advised - at this price, no, I honestly didn't expect miracles from the LX. I did expect a product that had a more passable (if still hardly perfect) action and a much greater attention to ease of use. I am also very glad I didn't buy the 88-key model now, as I thought about doing for a long time. Playing a piano on a synth action is always an unpleasant compromise, but-- at least for me-- it's especially unpleasant on the LX. I'll stick with my heavier old weighted boards for gigs where I'm using piano patches a lot.

Kicking Horse Whole Bean Coffee, Grizzly Claw Dark Roast, 1 Pound
Kicking Horse Whole Bean Coffee, Grizzly Claw Dark Roast, 1 Pound
3 used & new from $58.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Grizzly is great stuff, June 4, 2015
I would rate this 4.5 stars if I could; no, it's not the best coffee I've *ever* had, but it's easily among the best I've had available on local (higher-end / organic) grocery shelves for many years. The generally macho marketing strategy of this company was a bit of a turnoff, but whatever, it's just copy. Speaking of copy, I decided to give Grizzly Claw a try first based on the use of "rich" and "decadent" in its description on the bag. Unlike most large-scale production coffee that describes itself similarly, Grizzly Claw lives up to those adjectives. This coffee is complex enough that it basically demands full Aeropress treatment, and if it's possible to make it too strong, so far I haven't found that point - it's as smooth as it is rich. If you like a lighter roast, this obviously isn't your stuff. I want my coffee black and as thick and robust as I can get it without any obnoxious flavor or bitterness. The GB makes me a lot happier than 98% of the (MANY) beans I've tried, with the remaining 2% being things I just can't seem to get on a consistent basis. I definitely feel the cost of this stuff is very fair, and while I will be buying more Grizzly Bear, I am also quite curious about the other KH beans now.

dBurg Products Men's One Size Adjustable Ratchet Belt (One-size, black leather silver buckle)
dBurg Products Men's One Size Adjustable Ratchet Belt (One-size, black leather silver buckle)
Offered by dBurg Products
Price: $24.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quite nice belt for the cash, May 20, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Update, five months later: Belt is still working and looking good. I've worn it basically every day since purchase. The buckle did slide partially off the pin / axle that holds it to the belt itself last night, probably because I've been moving house and bumped it against something hard. In my case this was a quick fix and I do not see signs that it will soon recur. Even if it falls apart tomorrow, though, I think I'd buy this belt again; six months' use out of a belt this cheap is great for me.

...Update 2, five months and a few days later: Irony of ironies, the buckle fell off in a grocery store parking lot the first day of a multi-day house move, the day after I posted my update. A few other reviewers have cited a "screw" falling out of the buckle that holds it onto the belt, forming something like an axle. I can't be sure that it was a screw that disappeared at all - I never looked at it very closely; it may have been a tiny rivet - but in any event a piece of hardware on which the buckle pivots / fastens to the belt disappeared and I have not yet been able to find a piece to replace it. On close inspection of the buckle, even if I can locate something that fastens the buckle back onto the belt, I'm not convinced the belt is actually repairable at this point.

I will still concede that five months of daily wear is pretty respectable for a belt in this price range, especially since it never began looking poor aesthetically at any point before the hardware simply gave out - but I think I do have to dock it a star from four to three stars, largely for environmental concerns. If I manage to find a piece of hardware that does the trick of getting the belt back into action somehow, I'll come back and provide another update. I will say that whatever this piece is, it's not something you're going to find at the corner hardware store.
I've been wearing this belt daily for about a month now. For the price it's certainly a very nice belt and definitely solves / avoids a lot of problems I've had with belts in a similar low-end price range. By this point in its wear cycle, about 30 days in on *my* waist, the average mass-market Prez-Jackson-priced belt would already be looking pretty stressed if not outright ugly around the belt holes. This is holding up extremely nicely by comparison. I even keep looking for signs of wear on the inner-circumference "toothblock" that the ratcheting mechanism grips onto, but so far I have seen no signs of this. Based on this I'd say this is an extremely good value in a basic semi-dress belt.

A few things to note, though:
- The instructions that came with this thing were photocopied, looking like about a ninth-generation photocopy, and most words at the margins were cut off - in other words, essentially unreadable. The copy that *is* readable is obviously not written by a native English speaker. Thankfully the actual use of the belt is fairly self-explanatory, but I am a little more nervous about the process of cutting it down to size, which I'll probably have to do eventually if some of my planned lifestyle changes actually take for once.

- Do not expect this thing to look like a belt outside of its price range. Some of the reviews here led me to believe I'd be getting a really nice-looking dress belt. Maybe I'm a bit choosier about my belts, but to *my* eye, the leather is somewhat low grade. I am certainly not crazy about the look of the buckle - not so much regarding its bulk (it is a tad bit bulky) but the look of the metalwork itself. Mind, this belt does NOT by any means look terrible. It just looks like a casual-to-basic-dress belt in its actual price range, and isn't something I'd likely wear with a four-figure suit. Further note / disclosure: I do not own any four-figure suits.

- The "continuously variable" aspect of this belt is really nice and a huge selling point, but it also means the belt can be a little persnickety to get just right in terms of fit. Many times I leave the house or the restroom with the belt just a hair too loose without realizing it until my pants are already sagging. Other times I've vastly overtightened the thing and not realized it until I began to lose feeling in my legs (I kid). The nice thing, of course, is that this is a very fast fix in either direction. I've thought about adding a reversible "stop" of some kind on the belt so I have immediate positive feedback when it's been fed into the optimal point of tension, but I haven't done that yet.

- I've gotten stuck in the belt once, very shortly after I received it. I had the belt fully released, but the ratchet wouldn't let go of the tooth it was stuck on. There was a brief subsequent moment of panic as I thought I might need to go get myself out of my pants with garden shears. The fix was thankfully just this: Re-tighten the belt, then re-release.

- I love that I can loosen my belt with one hand in the car as needed. This came in very handy on an extremely long drive this weekend.

- Be advised that the belt does make a little noise when you re-tighten it quickly, and that noise - while slight - may seem to restroom bystanders like you're, well, willfully passing gas. This doesn't bother me much, because I could care less what strangers in airport bathrooms think of me. But if it bothers you, you can simply adjust / tighten the belt more slowly to avoid the noise.

- I think I'm pretty well sold on the world of ratchet belts after this one, and I'll continue to keep this as my daily driver for the moment. But based on the look of the black one - which is fine, again, but cheap black leather is easy to get looking passable - I might hesitate on the brown model, or maybe look a little more upmarket.

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