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Precor EFX 833 Commercial Series Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer
Precor EFX 833 Commercial Series Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer
Price: $6,495.00

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Machine - Primitive Brain, December 4, 2013
This is a great commercial quality machine; it's exactly what you use at your local fitness club. It's the gold standard by which all other ellipticals are judged.

The mechanical aspects of it are beyond reproach from every point of view. This is a work horse, designed to take any degree of punishment, engineered with great precision. Everything works flawlessly.

I generally do a manual program work out, setting the resistance and varying the cross ramp to engage different sets of muscles.

So what's not to like and why only four stars?

Simply stated, this thing is not too bright. For a machine at this price point a much more sophisticated control is in order. Maybe this one can do some of the things I'd like it to, but if so it's certainly not evident, even after poring over the manual in detail. So it's either deficient or exceedingly user unfriendly.

As noted, I enter a repetitive manual program for each workout. There should be a simple learn mode that allows the last workout entered to be retained. Similarly, it should be possible to enter parameters for a default user; I renter my weight and age each time. And what would really be nice would be if it would be possible to retain and export workouts to a PC based fitness program. Even inexpensive scales increasingly have bluetooth or wireless capability. Why not this over $ 6 grand behemoth?

If the brains of this brute contained more intelligence it would be close to perfect.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 19, 2014 1:28 AM PST

Precor 240i Commercial Series StretchTrainer
Precor 240i Commercial Series StretchTrainer
Price: $699.00

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's A Stretch, November 19, 2013
For people who are reasonably fit it's a stretch to justify the purchase of this neat looking gizmo.

My problem is not so much the price (it's a well built piece of equipment) or the challenge of assembling it (not as tough as some suggest). It's just that for me most of the stretches are either ineffective, or not as good as comparable ones accomplished on the floor.

Here's my rundown:

Stretch 1 - Lower Back: This is a good one that I do daily. It really works an area that needs to be flexible to prevent all manner of other problems. No argument with this one.

Stretch 2 - Hamstrings: It's OK but not as good as alternatives on the floor.

Stretch 3 - Gluteals and hips: This is a good one; no problems here.

Stretch 4 - Hips legs and back: Like number 2 no real advantage over the floor version.

Stretch 5 - Inner thighs and groin: Excellent!

Stretch 6 - Upper Back: This one does nothing for me. I skip it.

Stretch 7 - Shoulders: Like 6, virtually useless.

Stretch 8 - Quads: Not too different from the stretch you would do without the machine. No apparent value added...

So all in all it's a mixed bag, worthy of 3 stars only. But it does look interesting among the other equipment in the gym.

Secret Pizza Party
Secret Pizza Party
by Adam Rubin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.80
76 used & new from $7.21

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They're At It Again!, September 3, 2013
This review is from: Secret Pizza Party (Hardcover)
Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri, creators of Dragons Love Tacos, Those Darn Squirrels and various other kids lit high jinx have come up with another one to get the whole family chortling at story time.

This time the protagonist is Raccoon, a perennially hungry (for pizza, that is) and clearly very clever varmint. As we learn on the opening page, "All he wants in life is a pizza".

There is a myriad of reasons for this, particularly following from "...the gooey cheesy-ness, salty pepperoni-ness, sweet, sweet tomato-ness, and crispy, crunchity crust" of Raccoon's favorite dish.

Problem is, every time our furry hero tries to help himself, he's chased off by broom wielding adversaries.

The action culminates with Raccoon crashing a secret pizza party, using his natural coloration to blend in with the other masquerading guests. But it's too good to be true, and out come the brooms one more time...

As always, Salmieri's illustrations are outstanding and evocative. They're the perfect complement to the zany text.


The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary
The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary
by Caspar Henderson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.45
44 used & new from $14.90

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected Juxtapositions, September 2, 2013
This great book presents a prismatic and at times kaleidoscopic view of a very grand swath of almost everything. Well, not quite everything, but an amazing cross section of interesting and obscure material is fair game for author Caspar Henderson.

In the introduction, he explains what he was up to as follows: "I have tried to look at a few ways of being from different angles and, through 'a wealth of unexpected juxtapositions,' explore how they are like and unlike humans (or how we imagine ourselves to be) and also how their differences from and similarities to us cast light on human capabilities and human concerns".

That pretty much sums it up.

The book is organized as a abecedarium, with 26 (actually 27) chapters, (there are two for X) each one nominally dealing with a creature whose name begins with that letter. I say nominally, because the subject of the chapter is nothing more than a gateway into a labyrinth of free association that at times will almost take your breath away.

To provide a flavor of this, here's one sentence from each of the chapters (one X only this time)...

1. Axolotl - Three or four thousand years ago in Mesopotamia people imagined that a being called Oannes, half-man and half-fish, rose from the sea to teach wisdom to mankind.

2. Barrel Sponge - Even if we accept the idea of deep time as a reality, it is still hard to understand because its dimensions are so far outside our normal cognitive range.

3. Crown of Thorns Starfish - The drug addict, drunk, wife-shooter and writer William Burroughs used to tell a story about a man who teaches his anus to talk.

4. Dolphin - Spinner dolphins of both sexes sometimes engage in orgies of more than a dozen individuals, known as `wuzzles'.

5. Eel - Moray eels have a second set of jaws deep at the back of their throat which shoot forward at high speed, grab the prey and rapidly protract backwards again, pulling the prey down into the oesophagus as the animal closes its mouth.

6. Flatworm - Death has always been a looming presence, a lurking silent interlocutor behind a bewildering variety of masks, with whom we have an intermittent but unending dialogue in our heads.

7. Gonodactylus - "The sun", wrote Galileo, "with all those planets revolving around it and depending upon it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do".

8. Human - As the tale goes, Orpheus makes such beautiful music that the birds and beasts are enchanted, the trees and rocks dance, and even rivers change course in order to get closer to him.

9. Iridogorgia Pourtalesii - The DNA in a few thousand people, joined in a single chain, would reach the nearest star.

10. Japanese Macaque - Japanese macaques have long red faces and eyes that are close set like those of George W. Bush.

11. Kiripha-Ko and Thikili-Ko - It would be nice to have animal company that is not under our thumb and has more charisma than the cockroach, the super-rat, and other "super species" which, some predict, will dominate a degraded future environment.

12. Leatherback Turtle - In the karesansui, or Zen gardens, of Japan, rocks and vegetation are arranged in gravel or sand which is in turn scored with lines and patterns.

13. Mystaceus - Each species of jumping spider taps out its own distinctive dances of intimidation and seduction - three or even seven-act shows that combine features of a semaphore, flamenco, and South African gumboot dancing.

14. Nautilus - Alfred Tennyson anticipated Wells: The hills are shadows and they flow / From form to form and nothing stands; / They melt, like mist, the solid lands, / Like clouds they shape themselves and go.

15. Octopus - Perhaps the most significant role for a cephalopod in Greek and Roman myth is as an inspiration for the Scylla, a monster that seizes sailors between three sharp rows of teeth mounted in each of six heads at the end of six long necks.

16. Pufferfish - Prickliness, toxicity and ferocity have served the Pufferfish well in the exuberant but ruthless ecosystem of the coral reef.

17. Quetzalcoatlus - At the time of writing, films of wingsuit `flight' available online include Grinding the Crack by Jeb Corliss and Sense of Flying by Espen Fadnes.

18. Right Whale - The males compete not by fighting but by trying to out produce each other in the sheer quantity of sperm that they pass to females in frequent and promiscuous couplings from their prodigious testicles (each one of a mature male's pair can weigh half a tonne, or about 550 lb - the largest of any animal).

19. Sea Butterfly - Sea butterflies are pteropods: sea snails that swim by flapping pad-like `feet' which have grown into wings.

20. Thorny Devil - Moloch was a Canaanite god who in John Milton's account was smeared with the blood of human sacrifice.

21. Unicorn: Goblin Shark - Like the Wuggly Ump, its other habits are obscure.

22. Venus's Girdle - If squeezed they yield but then return to their original shape like gumbles, the fictional creatures in the neglected Australian children's classic, Bottersnikes and Gumbles.

23. Waterbear - In a half joke, the cosmologist Stephen Hawking calls humans a `chemical scum', so tiny and insignificant are we in the vastness of space.

24. Xenoglaux - One of the most striking European works of art may be Francisco Goya's etching in his Caprichos series, `The Dream of Reason Produces Monsters', in which a sleeping human figure (perhaps the artist himself)is mobbed by owls and bats with terrible eyes.

25. Yeti Crab - `Panspermia' is not, as it may sound, the name of a distant planet in the 1974 soft porn shlockfest Flesh Gordon, but a perfectly serious scientific idea.

26. Zebrafish - Voltaire admired the English but he barbed his praise: "Do not, while in their company," he wrote "express surprise that they have such pretty children".

See what I mean?

Unexpected juxtapositions, indeed.

My highest recommendation...

Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10
Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10
Price: $15.99
75 used & new from $9.99

91 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Someday Everything Is Going To Sound Like a Rhapsody, August 27, 2013
So sings Dylan in a beautiful solo piano version of When I Paint My Masterpiece that closes out this collection.

And so it is. The haunting, unadorned and authentic work that appears on Another Self Portrait certainly seems like a masterpiece as over and against what was actually released in 1970.

Dylan's unfortunate later penchant for not releasing some of his best work (think Blind Willie McTell and Foot of Pride from Infidels) seems to have gotten underway at this time. In this sense, Greil Marcus inadvertently had it right in asking, "What is this ____t?" in the famous 1970 Rolling Stone review of the original Self Portrait. The release at that time of the honest, unadorned traditional songs that we now hear for the first time would have been a tour de force. Better late than never...

Anyway, setting revisionism aside, let's look at this current and excellent release.

Of the 35 tracks, the majority are from the Self Portrait sessions. These include versions of songs that were released, heard here without the often ill advised overdubbing, as well as a number of other songs in a similar spare style that should have been released, but were not. Apart from the Self Portrait material, there's some great stuff from the New Morning sessions later in 1970. In addition, there are several alternate versions of Nashville Skyline content, a couple of great live recordings from the Isle of Wight, and a smattering of other work from the 1967 - 1971 period.

Here are a few of my favorite cuts:

Went to See the Gypsy - The demo version with just Dylan and David Bromberg on guitar is faraway, haunting, and wistful. It sounds true to the lyric in a way that the urgent delivery of the released version misses almost entirely.

Pretty Saro - While Bob is known for many things, I've always felt he was at his best singing love songs. This one is astonishing; a mellifluous and lyric expression of lovesick longing. Anyone who says that Dylan can't sing should listen to this. His voice here manages to express something that is almost inexpressible.

These Hands - Johnny Cash covered this great Eddie Noack number; why didn't Bob's beautiful version make it onto Self Portrait?

Working on a Guru - A hard driving 12 bar blues with - in a sublime irony - George Harrison delivering guitar riffs sounding more like Mike Bloomfield than the Maharishi following former Beatle. Dylan calls out, "Play it one time", and then, obviously having a whale of a good time, "Play it again". Harrison laughs a lays down an additional series of hot licks.

Copper Kettle - Stripped of the syrupy orchestral and choral overdubs this song is a revelation. There's a raw power here, almost completely absent in the original. As Dylan sings "Don't use no green or rotten wood. It'll get you by the smoke" he emits a guttural growl that'll make your hair stand on end.

I know I'm going to be listening to Another Self Portrait a lot. It's that good...
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 30, 2013 6:10 AM PDT

Pocket Guide to Fly Fishing for Largemouth Bass
Pocket Guide to Fly Fishing for Largemouth Bass
by Ron Cordes
Edition: Spiral-bound
Price: $10.35
10 used & new from $8.40

4.0 out of 5 stars What You See Is What You Get, August 25, 2013
This is indeed a pocket guide. What this means is that it fits in your pocket. Really.

It's tiny - 3 x 5 " of plastic laminated spiral bound information. Section tabs allow you to quickly get the info you need to bag that bass.

I've been striking out in my pursuit of largemouth bass all summer long. So I bought a bunch of books trying to nail the theory in the hopes that this would improve the practice. This one, tiny as it is, is one of the most useful.

I really do refer to it while on the water, and my success rate has picked up accordingly. Just don't expect a weighty tome...

DU-BRO Fishing Rod Holders
DU-BRO Fishing Rod Holders
Price: $7.99
6 used & new from $6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars I'm Organized!, August 25, 2013
Prior to installing these DU-BRO's there was a jumble of fly rods in the corner. The lines of one got tangled with the others. It was a mess.

Now everything is lined up neatly; the entire quiver is arrayed and ready for action. Albies busting - grab that nine weight rigged with the intermediate line and go. Bluefish biting - there's a rod set up with shock tippet on the wall, ready for immediate action.

What could be improved?

The glossy finish looks cheap. It would be nice if there were a matte option and more color choices than basic black and white.

And mounting screws should be supplied. I happened to have some that worked. Had this not been the case it would have been big time aggravation.

Otherwise a very good product, definitely recommended.

Riedel Wine Series Cabernet/Merlot Glass, Set of 2
Riedel Wine Series Cabernet/Merlot Glass, Set of 2
Offered by Wine Reserve Inc.
Price: $24.30
40 used & new from $22.13

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not My Taste, August 13, 2013
Riedel is a fine company with a long tradition that generally makes excellent glassware.

Even though I've rated these with 3 stars only, there's nothing really wrong with them. They're well proportioned for savoring big wines, and are durable enough for careful dishwashing. Quality of the lead free glass is also excellent.

So what's not to like?

I personally don't care for certain design details that follow from the modern production methods that have been used.

The traditional method of making a wine glass results in an organic look, in which the bowl, stem, and base flow together as a single entity. In this process, the three elements come together while all are still hot out of the furnace, and are shaped through the skills of an experienced glass blower.

In contrast, these Riedel glasses are produced in an automated assembly process. Each glass has five components; one blown (the bowl), one extruded (the stem), and three molded (the base and joiners). Riedel's choice of a fluted (ribbed) stem and little ziggurat shaped joiners draws attention to this composite nature, and makes for an overly fussy appearance.

These are my opinions - some may disagree. But, as the Romans would have put it, "De gustibus non est disputandum".

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Stayin' Alive, August 11, 2013
That's the objective of wearing one of these.

I do a lot of solo fishing, often in waters with a pretty heavy swell. On a few occasions, while casting to a bunch of busting albies, I've almost landed in the drink. If this were to happen and I hit my head on the way down, the result could be disaster.

But the idea of wearing a bulky PFD just doesn't cut it.

The solution: this hydrostatic self inflating unit. It's expensive, but worth it for sure.

Other auto inflate PFD's use a salt sensing trigger system. These cost less, but in tough marine conditions, are prone to false alarms. Morphing into the michelin man while fighting a nice fish would not be a good thing, and the aggravation of repacking the vest is something you'll want to avoid.

This unit is very comfortable and easily adjustable. I wear it all the time...

Kibitzers and Fools
Kibitzers and Fools
by Simms Taback
Edition: Hardcover
43 used & new from $0.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captures The Zany Eccentricities of Yiddish Culture, August 9, 2013
This review is from: Kibitzers and Fools (Hardcover)
This book is an absolute masterpiece.

Award winning author and illustrator Simms Tabak retells thirteen tales from Eastern Europe, originally told him by his grandfather. The venerable Zayda is pictured on the frontispiece where we learn, "He brought these stories to America from his little village in Poland".

The book begins with a series of Yiddish aphorisms, to whet your appetite and get you into the mood. Examples:

* A wise man knows what he says and a fool says what he knows.

* A shlimazel believes only in mazel.

* From the lowly potato you get the choicest latke.

The book ends with a glossary to help make sense of the aphorisms and to understand all that lies between. Some important Yiddish terms that are explained:

* Chutzpah - nerve;

* Meshugge - crazy;

* Zhlub - oaf.

The stories themselves are masterfully told, and illustrated with a vivid richness that only Simms can conjure up. Several made me roar with laughter. It's hard to describe how evocative of Yiddish idiosyncrasies all this is; suffice it to say that the agony and the ecstasy of life in the shtetl comes through loud and clear.

Even when your kids get tired of it, this is a book you'll want to keep for yourself for reading over and over again.

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