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Customer Reviews: 205
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Brian Whistler RSS Feed (Forestville, CA United States)

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Stanley Piranha 8 Inch Premium Scissor, Gray (SCI8TINS)
Stanley Piranha 8 Inch Premium Scissor, Gray (SCI8TINS)
Price: $14.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A workhorse that feels good in the hand, December 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Stanley is a high quality no nonsense pair of scissors. The grip is rubberized and feels good in the hand. The cutting blades are titanium and smooth to use. And very sharp. I appreciate the 3 inch ruler on the upper blade. I also noticed that instead of a cheap rivet keeping the blades together, Stanley has opted for the more durable screw solution, which can be tightened if necessary. This may be the last pair of scissors you'll ever need.

Apple Lightning to 30-Pin Adapter (0.2M)
Apple Lightning to 30-Pin Adapter (0.2M)
Price: $34.99
8 used & new from $27.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, November 21, 2014
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Does its job but costs way too much. I will add that unlike the cheap knockoffs, this product can send data in both directions so can be used with devices that require that such as Heart Maths inner Balance or devices that receive and send iOS Midi. not sure about its ability to send audio. I will try to hook my iPhone to my 30 pin car stereo jack and report back. I doubt that can work as the newer iPhone only sends digital audio through thunderbolt while the older 30 pin jack only sends analog audio. Seems you would need a DAC to make it work.

AmazonBasics Apple Certified Retractable Lightning to USB Cable - 2 Feet (0.6 Meters) - White
AmazonBasics Apple Certified Retractable Lightning to USB Cable - 2 Feet (0.6 Meters) - White
Price: $14.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Works but bulky and only 2 feet long., November 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This item is exactly what it says, a USB to Thunderbolt retractable connector that stretches out in two directions. The only problem is the winder is bulky. The biggest issue is that it being only 2 feet long when fully extended, it has limited uses. This is not long enough for my needs most of the time, ie when charging a device from an outlet. I have to leave the device on the floor and out of reach, but otherwise it is fine and probably good for travel.

Spark of Life
Spark of Life
Price: $14.99
40 used & new from $9.71

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Warning: quietly Addictive Album Ahead, November 7, 2014
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This review is from: Spark of Life (Audio CD)
Warning: This album is magical and addictive. I admit it: I'm a huge fan of the Wasilewski Trio and I was a bit nonplussed when I first heard this highly anticipated release. I didn't think there was enough energy on this ballad heavy recording. At first, the originals didn't quite grab me as much as on Faithful. And I wasn't keen on the addition of a sax player. All that has changed: with repeated listenings I believe the Wasilewski trio has come up with something very special here, an accessible mood album that reveals hidden depths with repeated listening. Yes, I admit, the day I first got it, I considered the music so mellow that I actually put it on as background music for a dinner party I threw. It can work that way. But having taken it with me on many walks in the forest with a killer portable system, I can now say that this album has seeped under my skin. Milder's sax playing adds a nice flavor to the mix. He's not a Garbarek clone- he evinces a warm tone and is a highly melodic player- think of a sort of European Stan Getz.

While Spark of Life is ballad heavy, there are some high energy moments, as in the Herbie Hancock cover of "Actual Proof" or in their modal cover of Sting's "Message in a Bottle". The band seems to find a great vehicle for free playing in both tunes, and one gets a taste of the quiet power of this group. I'm told that live they are anything but quiet-under the auspices of manfred Eicher there is a restraint that is present on this recording, but on these songs one can still sense the underlying power of this group. There are some nice originals, the gorgeous neo-classical opener, Austin (think January,) the mysterious Sudovian Dance (in 13,) and the lovely tone poem, Three Reflections. There are no wasted tracks here. It's a complete and satisfying journey, one well worth taking. It's one of the few albums I put on repeat on my long solitary walks in the hills. Highly recommended.

Green Smoothie Retreat: A 7-Day Plan to Detox and Revitalize at Home
Green Smoothie Retreat: A 7-Day Plan to Detox and Revitalize at Home
by Victoria Boutenko
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.45

4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book-with a couple of caveats, October 30, 2014
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I am indebted to Victoria Boutenko because Her book, Green For Life made me aware of how healthy green smoothies can be. Over the last 5 years, I have been drinking a green smoothie every morning. I have evolved my own recipes so I was curious what Victoria had to say in this new book.

The book is layed out in a straightforward manner. Boutenko makes her case for using greens as a way of getting supernutrition and for detoxing the environmental toxins we are all exposed to. She talks about the need to create a quiet, restful environment while on retreat and emphasizes that organically grown produce is preferred. She encourages people to do the retreat together for mutual support. She feels 7 days is the right amount of time to clean and heal the body to get thru a detox "crisis" and come out the other side feeling great.

After describing the need for a peaceful environment, good quality produce and listing the various items needed, such as a good blender, proper knives etc, Boutenko publishes letters from people who have had perceivable gains as a result of doing the 7 day retreat. The book ends with recipes for green smoothies, soups and even green puddings.

Boutenko was once a vegan, then a vegetarian. She found she had a B12 deficiency, so is now adding raw egg to her smoothies a few times a week. This might turn off hard core vegans, but I found it interesting that she is simply interested in health and is not dogmatic and for her at least, this is something she feels she had to do. My biggest problem with the book is that Boutenko's drinks include a lot of fruit. She contends (without any scientific evidence to support this,) that unripe conventionally grown fruit raises blood sugar whereas ripe organically grown fruit does not. This flies in the face of everything I've read on the subject and certainly is not the experience of the diabetics I have known. Her food pyramid unsurprisingly reflects her philosophy, placing fruit at the bottom, with greens next in line and other organic veggies on top. She mentions occasionally eating organically raised chickens and eggs as well in the top position. Her green smoothies tend to be high in fruits, something that wouldn't work for me. I tend to use mostly fresh greens and certain superfoods, green powders etc in my smoothie with just a handful of berries to balance them out. I tend to disagree with Boutenko on this point so I modify her recipes to reflect my own tastes and beliefs.

That being said, I think the recipes in this book look good and I will definitely be making her green soups and try out the green puddings. (I didn't do the green smoothie retreat yet, but I intend to do so over the Xmas holidays.)

In summary, I think this is a great introduction to green smoothies and what they can do for you. Over the 5 years I have been making them, I have seen improvements in my general health, well being, stamina and libido. I urge anyone who is serious about improving their health to try these. A seven day intensive is a great way to jump in, or that could be something one works towards. Either way, I urge people to pick up this book or Green For Life and start feeling better!

Charlie Haden - Jim Hall
Charlie Haden - Jim Hall
Price: $11.99
34 used & new from $7.84

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A parting Gift from two Masters, October 14, 2014
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Jim Hall and Charlie Haden performed a number of times together, but this posthumously released live concert may be the only recording of this duo. If this recording is any indication, it's a shame more recordings weren't made of this natural pairing. Not only is this an inspired performance that archives these two masters at the top of their game, it is also a high quality live audio recording. Haden's bass is big fat right out of the gate as he rolls into Bemsha Swing. Jim Hall's tone is clear and full. The two artists feel each other out on the tight wire that is the duo setting and soon settle into a stellar set of standards and a few originals. It is clear these two are comfortable with one another and enjoy playing together. While this is a laid back affair, there is a quiet exuberance that exudes from these two sympatico artists. Listen to Hall's coda on Body and Soul: quiet fire. Or Haden's statement of the melody on the Hall original, Down From Antigua. With that strum accompaniment it reminded me so much of the Metheny/ Haden classic, Missouri Sky and just how much Pat owes to Hall. It is simply a joy to listen to. There are so few artists who have a signature sound. Here we are treated to two of those rare creatures, playing together in perfect rapport.

As Pat Metheny says in the liner notes, this is one for the ages. I know it will be in rotation in my living room for some time to come and I will be coming back to it over the years. Highly recommended.

DeLonghi AC230 Energy Star Air Purifier with Ionizer, 220 Square Feet
DeLonghi AC230 Energy Star Air Purifier with Ionizer, 220 Square Feet
Price: $349.99
10 used & new from $349.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Real competition for the BlueAir 200 series, September 30, 2014
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The AC230 is my first air purifier from Delonghi-this model is designed to clean the air in a 220sq ft room, and it does it in a number of ways using no less than 5 filters.

Setting up the unit is quite simple. The front is secured by magnets and detaches quite easily. One has only to place the nano silver filter, hepa/carbon filter, followed by the washable prefilter. Permanently installed behind all of these is the photo catalytic filter with a uvc lamp. There is also an optional ionizer. Of these, only the combination Hepa/carbon filter need ever be replaced. The idea is that the prefilter sifts out the large particles, followed by the hepa filter to get out the micro particles. The attached carbon filter is to get out the bad odors, smoke etc. The nano silver filter and photo catalytic filter with uvc lamp would be for bacteria and other pathogens. The ionizer, which can be turned on or off, theoretically uses negative ions to help remove dust and smoke by combining with positively charged dust particles to form larger particles that can then be filtered by the purifier or at least drop to the floor.

I must say I like the look of the unit. It is sleek and pretty aesthetic for an air purifier. When you turn it on, the auto mode kicks in and the unit tests the air. LED lights on both sides of the unit (which, thank god can be turned off,) give a visual feedback of the quality of the air: Orange for bad, green for satisfactory and blue for good. When powered up, the unit always starts with orange and over a 10 minute period or so cycles to blue. The unit is also supposed to respond to changes in air purity by changing fan speeds accordingly. I am suspicious of how sensitive the sensors are in my unit. I own a BlueAir 220c which i keep in my bedroom. It also has this automatic mode and upon sensing even the slightest change in odor, will often cycle into a faster fan speed, which has on occasion been a source of much laughter. (I'll leave that to your imagination dear reader.) Thus far the 230c hasn't changed speed or LED color once after it has reaching the blue (good) level. The only way I seem to be able to get to the two higher fan speeds is to change them manually. (NOTE: about an hour after I wrote this and after 6 days of continual use, the AC230 kicked the fan up a notch to the 2nd speed for the for the first time and is registering a green light, or somewhat reduced air quality, so apparently the sensors are working.)

Since I'm comparing this unit to the comparably priced BlueAir, I must mention that both units are relatively quiet, especially at the lowest speed. Using a decent iPhone decibel meter app, the ac230 clocked in @ about 50db at the lowest speed, 58, 68 for the next two speeds respectively. The BlueAir clocked in @ 48, 62, 70dbs. Now I suspect as the background noise in my house is about 40dbs, these results are quite skewed. If I remember correctly, The BlueAir lists its lowest speed at 32db on their website, and I believe it. So the point here is, this unit is about as quiet as the BlueAir, which is highly touted for its quiet operation.

One other point should be made: the instructions say the hepa/carbon filter should be replaced every six months, with an average use of 4 hours a day. This bothers me quite a bit, as I tend to leave my air purifiers on 24/7. The BlueAir gets the same mileage out of its filter with 24/7 operation. There is a filter replacement light on the ac230. It is apparently not just a timer, as on the BlueAir, but an actual sensor. The instructions say you can extend the life of the filter by periodically washing the pre-filter. It also says that when the prefilter goes from white to brown, it must be replaced. FYI: the hepa/carbon replacement filter costs about $58, about $8 less than the comparable BlueAir model.

NOTE: I am adding this note to say after running the unit non stop for only a month or so, the replace filter light started blinking. I took a good look at the filter and was surprised to see how clean it still looked. I mean pristine. Usually the particle filter would be dusty, but there wasn't a speck of dust to be seen. The carbon filter is another story- I'm not sure it would show signs of odors being absorbed. The point here is, the filter replacement light must be manually reset (you'll need a small crew driver or paper clip to actually reach thru a tiny hole to the reset button.) It doesn't sense a new filter. The instructions did mention 4 hours of use a day. What if it's simply a timer? If so, it's set to go off after only about one month of continual use.

All in all, other than the short life of the filter, I like this air purifier- it's quiet and certainly has enough filter stages to please even those with mold sensitivities and other allergies. While I'll have to live with it for a while before I can fully assess its effectiveness, I think I can sense a difference in my office where I am using it. Note that this filter is meant for rooms no larger than 220sq ft. For a filter that fits a smaller room, I think the deLonghi is ideal. Because one can turn off the LEDs, the AC-230 makes an ideal candidate for use in the bedroom. Note: am docking the unit from 4 stars to 3 for the extremely short filter life.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 18, 2014 11:34 PM PST

Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro
Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro
Price: $11.96
33 used & new from $7.73

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Childs Delivers an Epic Reimagining of Laura Nyro, September 23, 2014
I have been a big fan of Laura Nyro's since her first record came out. She had a way of blending pop, R&B, soul, doo wop, Motown, Broadway and jazz into a style that was entirely personal. Has there ever been an pop artist who was more sophisticated and yet totally raw at the same time?

On this ambitious new tribute album, Billy Childs has done a superb job of capturing both that visceral immediacy while at the same time embroidering Nyro's material with his own jazz, pop and classical ececticism. The pairing was a a stroke of genius and the results are truly phenomenal.

The first thing that struck me upon listening was the sheer immensity of the mix; the arrangements sound massive! Yet reading the liner notes I was surprised at how spare the instrumentation actually is. Somehow with mostly just piano, bass, drums, guitar, string quartet and harp, Childs has created a sonic palette that suggests a huge orchestra. Perhaps some of that epic sound can be attributed to producer Larry Klein (who also produced some of the late Joni Mitchell albums such as the massive sounding Dog Eat Dog). Adding large ambience to a recording can make it sound impersonal, but somehow the effect here creates a spacious feeling that feeds off the emotional depth of he performances while keeping them focused and intimate.

Starting off with New York Tendaberry, Renee Fleming gives a powerful performance, capturing a side of Nyro's music that is both theatrical and passionate. Childs' orchestration illustrates every word, mirroring the feelings with taste and emotional depth. YoYo Ma's counterpoint to Fleming's vocal serves as musical commentary. It is quite the high wire act and lets the listener know right from the start, this isn't another album of simple covers-it is indeed a complete reimagining of Nyro's work.

Other high points are the talented Lisa Fischer's (20 Steps from Stardom,) vocal on Map to the Treasure. Now here is a singer who can reach the emotional heights Nyro always went for! And the arrangement is utterly spellbinding. Childs brings his love of repeated minimalist patterns to the mix, intertwining and modulating them, keeping things expanding and moving until exploding into the chorus. It is a tour de force.

A big surprise for me was Esperanza Spalding's natural affinity for Nyro, as evidenced by her inspired take on Upstairs by a Chinese Lamp. I've been a huge fan of hers from the beginning, but I never thought of her in relation to Nyro's work. It's a match made in heaven. She completely nails this song, sounding eerily like Laura herself at times. Wayne Shorter provides the spare but thoughtful commentary on soprano sax, reminding this listener of his work with Joni Mitchell. Been on a Train features the one of a kind vocalist/songwriter, Ricki Lee Jones. There have been some criticisms of this performance in these reviews, some dismissing her as having a "little girl's" voice. I couldn't disagree more. Rickie Lee, (who owes a great deal to Nyro in her own work,) starts with that little voice and in one of the more arresting interpretations on the disc, feels into the lyric and takes us on a cinematic ride thru a landscape of urban isolation and addiction. By the end she is singing full voiced in her upper register. It is a gut wrenching performance augmented by the great Chris Potter who tears into a gritty sax solo that perfectly plays off the dark urban vibe of the piece.

Other notable tracks include Susan Tedeschi's gutsy version of Gibsom Street, and Shawn Colvin's ballad treatment of Save the Country. Heard as a ballad here, Childs shows us what a truly American songwriter Nyro was. Sounding almost like a Stephen Foster song in its purity, I could also hear a connection with another great American song crafter, Randy Newman. There is a simplicity and inevitability to this melody when heard slowed down like this. I also really liked the album's closer, a somewhat countrified version of When I Die. It is fitting to close the album with Nyro's first song, written when she was only 16. Originally in a major key, Childs casts it in a minor key which serves to underline it's brooding lyric. Allison Krauss gives a brilliant interpretation of the song and Jerry Douglas comes up with a goose bump inducing dobro solo.

Special mention must be made of Childs' subtle arrangements. It is obvious this was a labor of love. One can feel the love and respect for Nyro's artistry in every note. Sometimes the star of the tune is Childs himself: check out his amazing flights of fancy on To a Child. He takes this late Nyro song of love for her young child and augments it with substantial instrumental sections that turn it into an epic celebration of nature and a mothers love. A total knockout.

This is the tribute album Nyro fans have been waiting for. Like Nyro's own music, it is inspired, effortlessly boundary breaking, risk taking, full of heart and intellectual curiosity, while remaining authentic and visceral. The best compliment I can give it is I honestly think Laura herself would've approved.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 29, 2014 1:12 AM PDT

A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction
A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.50
59 used & new from $14.28

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse behind the Disc World Curtain, September 19, 2014
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This is Terry Pratchett's first book of non fiction. It is a collection of various published essays and talks he has given over the years at various conventions, schools and readings etc. Even while describing the endless book tours he has had to do, the Prachett wit and word play comes through. You will learn of his struggles with word processors, clueless publishers, what a difference a daiquiri can make on a long book tour, and the truth behind the ubiquitous black hat. Terry gives advice to writers, his thoughts of the importance of LOTR and the back story of the creation of Disc World. He is a humanist, an affable man with a work ethic that demands that the day he finishes one book, he starts another. He candidly discusses his diagnosis of a rare form of Alzheimers. But as yet, his health problems don't seem to have slowed him down much!

Not just for Prachett devotees, (although it will certainly appeal to those of us who already ourselves among his legions of fans,) Slip of the Keyboard will appeal to casual visitors to Disc World as well as aspiring writers who want to understand how success comes to the most unlikely people. (That being said, I would not recommend this as a first foray into the writing of Terry Pratchett.) Of course, the self effacing Pratchett is ridiculously talented and driven. One of the things he tells aspiring writers is to read what they love. I am hoping this book will perhaps entice some new initiates into the rich world of Terry Pratchett. It is a Good place to visit and revisit.

Contigo Purity Glass Water Bottle, 20-Ounce, Greyed Jade
Contigo Purity Glass Water Bottle, 20-Ounce, Greyed Jade
Price: $21.68

4.0 out of 5 stars A nice glass water bottle-a little heavier than stainless steel-no re-sealable lid, September 8, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Having been a stainless water bottle user for many years, I was reluctant to switch to glass, as it's somewhat heavier than my trusty Kleen Kanteen. I am aware that purists think glass is the least reactive material to carry water, and so I was eager to try out this glass bottle.

It's a nice size @ 24oz and has a soft plastic sheath that protects it from being easily broken. It's not as heavy as I expected when full, but is noticeably heavier than my all stainless water bottle. I use a multipure water filter, so my water is pretty clean tasting out of the tap. I had never noticed the stainless steel imparted any taste to the water, that is, until I tried the Contigo glass. I definitely noticed the taste of the water in the glass as being softer, more like it tastes when drinking it out of a glass at home.

The only minus here(besides added weight,) is that the bottle I was supposed to get was advertised to have an auto seal lid that allows for one handed drinking. My bottle didn't come with this lid, just a conventional stainless one, so I can't comment on this feature. I have therefore docked my rating one star for the lack of this feature.

Note: I now understand the auto-seal feature is a typo. To my knowledge Contigo doesn't make a glass water bottle with this feature. That refers to their line of bpa free plastic bottles. Too bad, because it sounds like a nice feature, especially for driving or Hiking/biking.

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