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Profile for Jeff Howard > Reviews


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Jeff Howard "vitaminj" RSS Feed (North Jersey)

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Nest Learning Thermostat, 2nd Generation, Works with Alexa
Nest Learning Thermostat, 2nd Generation, Works with Alexa
Offered by Voluntary Transactions
Price: $239.45
36 used & new from $175.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent choice!, April 11, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Easy install (20 min) and simple daily use so far. I have more visibility into my family's energy usage (at least via the thermostat) than I had with the previous thermostat. The Nest picked up our daily temp goals and started working toward that right away. For example, it "learned" that we want the heat to come on a little before 6:30am but then then essentially turn off at night while we're sleeping. None of that required any programming by me. Based on our happy transition to the Nest, I'll be looking into a Nest smoke alarm.

Straw Propeller Gourmet Foods Natural Gourmet Oatmeal, Strawberry Jungle, 2.5 Ounce (Pack of 12)
Straw Propeller Gourmet Foods Natural Gourmet Oatmeal, Strawberry Jungle, 2.5 Ounce (Pack of 12)
Price: $32.48
3 used & new from $32.48

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great taste--at extreme health cost, March 20, 2014
This product tastes delicious, has tons of large strawberry pieces...but sadly has 19 grams of sugar and 272 calories. The calories I can work with, but that amount of sugar is insane. And by the end of the container I was feel sugared-out. There are too many other brands of boutique oats that are also non-GMO and vegan and GF. So who would be that concerned with spending $3+ per container of fancy oatmeal...and also want to eat the equivalent amount of sugar in nearly two bowls of Lucky Charms? If that's your thing then you'll love Straw Propeller. Earnest Eats or Love Grown or Super Foods or Umpqua all seem as good and more nutritionally appropriate.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 3, 2014 9:40 PM PDT

The Pitchfork 500: Our Guide to the Greatest Songs from Punk to the Present
The Pitchfork 500: Our Guide to the Greatest Songs from Punk to the Present
by Scott Plagenhoef
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.47
110 used & new from $0.01

21 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 6.0??, November 24, 2008
How would the smug folks at pitchfork review their own book? I'm giving it a 6.0 in their parlance. But first, a few things that you need to know: 1)the book is songs only, 2)virtually all of the p-fork reviewers contributed to this book (including some non-regulars like Douglas Wolk), 3)the inclusions and exclusions will drive you as crazy as some of their album reviews.

It's interesting that p-fork ever created this title. It's such an odd concept: it's limited to 1977 - present, it's songs only, and it eschews some standard record guide tenets. I half expected the preface to berate me for even buying it! You will find some interesting nuggets and some b-sides you weren't familiar with. The book delivers in that sense. I agree with another reviewer who suggested that it needs an editor (much like this review). There are some odd little two page spreads where a reviewer extends on a particular genre of music. These essays were interesting, but some are intended as humorous (yacht rock?) while most are straightforward. The inconsistency seems sloppy to me. I was hoping that one reviewer-voice would emerge from the website and take hold of this thing. Instead, it feels like a mish-mash.

In the end, I would recommend this to music nerds like myself but not to the general public. On pitchfork's website they have lists of "best albums by decade." Those lists are more useful in the traditional sense, and I would recommend them to most folks.

500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide
500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide
by Gene Kannenberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: $24.77
80 used & new from $0.22

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great starting place..., October 31, 2008
Kannenberg's book is a ton of fun to read. It's very easy to pick and flip through. This book has caused me to spend hundreds of dollars to catch up on "necessary reading."

It is organized by genre: horror, superhero, non-fiction, crime, humor, etc. There is some manga in the book, but that's not really the emphasis here. Please note that superhero is listed as a genre, so if you're looking for that it's in the book but in a limited way. (It should also be noted that Kannenberg's team of contributors does a great job listing some amazing superhero stuff. They know what they're talking about.)

I really love the 4 color, glossy paper--it really makes the covers and art shine. he also lists ISBN's and publishers. It's a great tool for creating what-to-buy lists. The summaries of the titles are accurate and fairly short. The commentary on the various titles is pretty good. He throws in some cool info nuggets here and there. I wanted more commentary on certain titles, but that's a minor complaint. Again, this book helps you focus your reading on the titles that are likely to interest you.

I have some quibbles on the star ratings, but that's to be expected. I also like the age ratings--very helpful for finding some titles for my son.

I enjoy this book so much for quick little reading bursts that I am inclined to get the companion book on top 500 anime movies.

Live at the Annandale Hotel
Live at the Annandale Hotel
9 used & new from $11.00

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great live album from a little known band, October 31, 2008
I first heard about this album reading Pitchfork (hate to admit it). Life Without Buildings was a post-punk band from Scotland (though not all Scots), and they existed only for a few years. They have one studio album available from DC/Baltimore (Any Other City).

I suppose that your feeling about this album will be affected by your reaction to Sue Tompkins singing style. She has this really cool way of using a stuttered phrasing--repeating (many times) little fragments and words. I find it incredibly effective in the way that David Byrne used that approach. I quite like her voice too. It has a sort of childlike quality that, combined with her accent, makes it very appealing. (I should note that there is a copious amount of stage banter from Sue on this album. Normally I HATE that on live albums, but my infatuation with her voice excuses it this time!)

Another thing I love about LWB is Robert Johnston's gtr playing. I am a sucker for rhythm lead, and his playing is great. He manages to be melodic and propulsive at the same time.

The songwriting is very good. Some of the songs seem a bit cryptic at first, but meaning opens up upon repeated listens.

If you're a fan of of late 70's-early 80's post-punk you should check this out.

The Acme Novelty Date Book: Sketches and Diary Pages in Facsimile
The Acme Novelty Date Book: Sketches and Diary Pages in Facsimile
by Chris Ware
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $29.77
66 used & new from $8.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be aware of edition number..., October 31, 2008
Chris Ware is an amazing artist--one of the best in the comics industry. His books are something I treasure like a sweaty gold miner. He published this sketchbook in "response" to Bob Crumb's sketchbooks. In the intro, Ware states how influential those books were on him. The variety of styles Ware is capable of using is amazing. You'll also gain insight into the characters we've come to know and love (Quimby, Jimmy Corrigan, etc). If you're a Ware fan--get this book. If you are new to Ware, I'd probably start somewhere else like Jimmy Corrigan.

**The one caution I would provide is that Amazon states that this is the 1st volume. However, the picture above is of volume 2. The 1st edition has a black cover and the 2nd edition cover is blue. The two editions cover different periods of Ware' life.

Saxophone Colossus [Reissue]
Saxophone Colossus [Reissue]
Price: $6.99
122 used & new from $2.55

35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant album--problem w/RVG though, September 20, 2006
The brilliance of this album has been stated many times by people with more jazz knowledge than me. However I thought I should echo what the other reviewer states here: there are some minor problems with this disc. Specifically, there is a flutter on the 4th track "Moritat." I thought I heard it 3-4 different times. It doesn't ruin the music, but you might be tempted to return the disc. The RVG series is stellar so I'm assuming it's a problem with the masters. If that's not the problem then it may be in the manufacturing. Mildly disappointing...

I would like to put in a quick mention of the genius of Max Roach. His technique on the ride cymbal is revolutionary. I could write an essay on it myself! All in all, this is one of my all-time favorite jazz albums.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 1, 2013 7:25 PM PDT

MVP Baseball 2004
MVP Baseball 2004
Offered by Media Supplies Outlet
Price: $20.41
242 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than most..., March 22, 2004
This review is from: MVP Baseball 2004 (Video Game)
I bought WS baseball 2 yrs ago and ASB last year, and I bought MVP this year. MVP is better than both of those. It remains to be seen if it's better than the new WS baseball (now called ESPN baseball).
I bought the PS2 version of MVP purely so I could play it online. It was against my better judgement that I did this--the xbox version ALWAYS has better graphics. The PS2 graphics are good--pretty much what you are used to--nothing new really. I don't get into player models all that much so I don't really care. If you want photo-realistic player models get the xobox version.
+Pretty deep for stats. This probably won't make the baseball wonks happy, but it's close enough for me.
+Dynasty mode. This is deep and insane. This should make everyone happy if you have time to devote to it. The minor league stuff is great.
+Gameplay. Fielding is pretty darn good. I really like the way they've integrated the "Big Play" system w/the right thumbstick--it makes you feel like you are making some extra effort to knock down the tough play. Baserunning is good as well. I like the windows so you can control the runners individually if you want.
+Hitting. A good balance between being able to get hits but not turning the games into homerun contests. I like that you have a little more control over how you hit the ball. It's also great that the game gives you some control over sac flys--a key strategem in real baseball that always gets short-shrift in the gaming version.
+Pitching. Wow. I really like the pitch meter. Similar to Tiger Woods golf--it makes you have to execute well in order to pull off a good pitch. If you make a mistake in the pitch meter the game will make you pay for it--just like in real game.
-The game doles out errors to fielding too often. This is a minor quibble, but I had to mention it.
-Framrate. This is the most disturbing issue to me. This game runs a little slow. I'm guessing that it's below 60fps. If you have bases loaded and you foul a ball back into the stands the game slows down a lot. The catcher looks like he's in slow motion running to the backstop--b/c of all of everything on screen at once I guess. The speed isn't going to get me to return the game--I like the gameplay too much.
Last comments:
I have not played online yet so I can't comment on that. It may be wise to wait until early April (the date just slipped) and see how good ESPN baseball is. The xbox is just a more powerful machine so framerate should be a non-issue there. Also, ESPN will have the XSN sports network online stuff. If you can't wait, this game is very good.

Guess Who? Board Game
Guess Who? Board Game
20 used & new from $12.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My 5 year old loves it!, March 13, 2004
This review is from: Guess Who? Board Game (Toy)
I have played this game sooooo many times with my son. I really enjoy watching him use deductive logic to guess what character card I have. I've been trying to teach him to pick the best question so he can win in fewer turns. He's getting there, but this game is one of his favorites. The game doesn't necessarily feel educational--that may be why he likes it so much.
I gave the game 3 stars for durability because the cards can fall out of their holders, and it is cheap plastic. The price is right on though.

The Quick Recipe (The Best Recipe Series)
The Quick Recipe (The Best Recipe Series)
by Editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Edition: Hardcover
133 used & new from $0.01

78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book from Cook's Illustrated team., March 9, 2004
I understand where another reviewer got confused: you might assume that this book would consist of quick little recipes--fast reading and fast prep. For the Cook's staff these are quick recipes, but compared to the recent success of Rachael Ray's books these recipes aren't that quick!
I should say that I really like this collection. I turn to it often for ideas. I may have spent half a day preparing an entree only to remember that I forgot to prepare a vegetable--out comes the book! The same goes for starches, salads, dessert, etc. If I need an idea fast I pull out this book along with Joy of Cooking and possibly Bittman (though don't get me started on his shortcomings).
Let me remind potential consumers here that this is indeed a collection. You will see overlap if you have read the magazine for years. Though, strangely, they will update certain things in the book without making that crystal clear to magazine subscribers. In other words, you may think that Cook's favors a certain brand of unsalted butter based on magazine reviews. In the book you may find that they have switched brands on you!
Here are a few recipes I have tried that work:
Chinese chicken salad
Broiled asparagus
Glazed carrots
Warm spinach salad
Roasted potatoes (memorize this one)
Pan-seared salmon (high heat saute of fish will smell up your pan and your kitchen)
Quick chicken noodle soup
Stuffed chicken breasts
All forms of stir-fry
Cinnamon rolls
There are others I have tried, but suffice it to say that I really use this book. If you have an expanded definition of "quick," and you respect the Cook's Illustrated methods then you will find this to be one of their better tomes.

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