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Customer Reviews: 502
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Man in the Middle "strasma" RSS Feed (Irvine, CA)

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Motorola Talkabout T465 Rechargeable Two-Way Radio Bundle (Green)
Motorola Talkabout T465 Rechargeable Two-Way Radio Bundle (Green)
Offered by iSave
Price: $94.01
13 used & new from $81.48

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely improved over earlier models, July 22, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is my third set of FRS/GMRS 2-way radios in 2 years, not because the others have failed, but rather because they have been so useful at an orphanage where we volunteer that we donated both other sets for use by staff. As radios, all were "35 mile" versions, which means they really work up to a mile away in an urban area, and all three had about the same range. The differences I've noticed are mostly in how they feel in the hand, how well they hook to a belt, and how many buttons have to be pushed to get anything done - with having to pull out the manual yet again an all too common problem with my two earlier radios. Of the three models, these new radios are my favorite.

This pair of radios feels good in the hand, has a much improved belt clip that: 1) works, 2) does not get in the way when using the radio hand-held, and can be removed easily if unwanted. That means I actually use the belt clip, unlike on either of the two previous radios. Battery life is improved: 12 hours, rather than 8 on the similar Motorolas I bought 2 years ago, and water resistance is now up to IP-54 from IP-51 (but still don't dunk it in a bucket.) The built-in LED flashlight has its own button and works well.

Another improvement is that I can activate everything I care about without having to dive into menues. That was the kiss of death with the radios I bought last year. They had a handy "dualwatch" feature to monitor 2 channels of interest, but made it almost impossible to activate, and turned the feature off every time I turned the radio off and on again. My favorite improvement on this radio is that getting into and out of NOAA weather mode takes only one keypress of the Mode button.

The other big improvement is debatable: USB micro plug charging. Both my earlier pairs of radios came with a charging base that worked fine. Even so, I prefer the USB micro plug charging, as it eliminates my having to carry an extra charger for them. I already have a Photive 50 watt 6 port USB charger with lots of short charging cables ending in USB micro plugs. That lets me charge both of these, 2 cell phones, an iPad, and whatever else we have along, all from a single device. I can also leave the two tiny chargers that came with these radios in other locations where they might be needed, and also use them to recharge almost all my other small electronics (by adding a Cozy brand USB Micro to Lightning adapter as needed.)

The one feature these still lack, that the professional radios at the orphanage have, is the ability to quickly and easily switch between a primary and a secondary channel. The orphanage uses one channel for calling and brief messages, and then switches to the secondary channel for extended conversations. None of the radios I've owned can do that well, but this pair comes closest. To change channels from 16 to 18, just press the menu key, then press the up key twice, then hit the menu key 9 times. It's still a lot of key presses, but takes only a few seconds and no need to find the manual. Even so, if anyone ever offers an FRS/GMRS radio with the easy one button switching between 2 channels of the pro radios, I'll happily upgrade again.

Note: these radios also have all the other usual "nice to have" features, such as squelch codes, call tones, hands-free use, scanning, keyboard lock, vibrating alerts, Qt noise filtering, "Roger" tone, emergency alert, and a battery saver mode.

Overall, well improved over prior radios, and not just for hunters.

Shimano Brake Cable and Housing Set (Universal)
Shimano Brake Cable and Housing Set (Universal)
Offered by Trail This
Price: $12.60
19 used & new from $7.26

5.0 out of 5 stars Ideal way to replace worn brake cables, July 20, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I recently bought a new brake noodle, to replace one that was rusted, and then discovered I'd also need a new brake cable and housing. Amazon to the rescue with this convenient cable and housing kit. I particularly like that it covers all the bases - including two cables, one for a front brake and the other for a rear brake, and both included cables have both road and mountain bike tips. All other needed trim parts are also included.

The only hard part of using this is making a clean cut of the unwanted tip on the brake cable, and to shorten the housing. Bike shops have special cutters for this, but I had no trouble using Craftsman cut-off pliers, just making sure to rotate them around the cable and housing a bit as I cut. Bike shops also have a special pin tool for opening up the housing after cutting, but I was easily able to do the same by opening up a large wire paper clip. One more special tool can be used for crimping on the cable tip cover, but again I was able to make do with a good pair of needle-nose pliers for that, just making sure to clamp down in two different parts of the tip to lock it in place.

Overall, I can't imagine how this could have been any better for my purposes, and I am a delighted customer.

George Foreman GFG240X Dual Surface Griddle + Grill, Ceramic
George Foreman GFG240X Dual Surface Griddle + Grill, Ceramic
Price: $59.99
2 used & new from $43.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big breakfast solution, among other uses, July 20, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a seriously big griddle: 29.5 inches wide (including the control), 11 inches from front to back, and 4 inches high. Its ceramic cooking surface is 24 inches wide and 11 inches front to back. On the bright side, all this space makes it easy to cook a full meal on it at once. For supper tonight, I cooked 4 Jumbo eggs in the flat middle portion, and 5 strips of bacon on each of the two tilted and ridged side portions. That turned out very well, for the most part. The eggs were possibly the best I've ever cooked. No issues at all with sticking when it came time to flip them. As for the bacon, that too turned out very well,with two caveats: 1) the strips of bacon tended to slip down the tilted portion of the grill toward the drain channel on each side, and 2) there's less heat at the side edge of the griddle, making it necessary to move the bacon slices nearest the sides into the middle of the griddle to finish grilling them.

Cleaning the new ceramic surface was a breeze, except that there's no way to immerse it. Fortunately, the two grease catchers can be removed and cleaned in a dishwasher.

I can definitely see using this as an extra cooktop at a big event. And thanks to the variable power setting, I expect another use will be for keeping things warm at such events.

Overall, I like this griddle, but would like it even better if its ceramic surface were removable for cleaning in a dishwasher as in our favorite Foreman grill, and if it somehow folded for storage when not in use.

George Foreman GFO201RX Indoor/Outdoor Electric Grill, Red
George Foreman GFO201RX Indoor/Outdoor Electric Grill, Red
Price: $93.56
4 used & new from $74.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Compact indoor/outdoor ceramic grill, July 18, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There was no outdoor grill in our new home, so we bought a George Foreman CF0240TGM electric on sale locally in March. Had this grill then been available for its current price here, we'd likely have bought this one instead.

The key advantage of this model is its ceramic (claimed to be 5 times as durable) grill surface, rather than the Teflon of our other grill. The overall shape is also an advantage. This grill (at 23" x 11" x 12"H) sits far more comfortably on a kitchen counter, in a double sink, or on a small patio than our other grill (21.5" x 18" x 16"H.) Officially, its' cooking surface is only 201 square inches, rather than the 240 of our other grill, but that works out to holding the same number (6) of Costco 1/3rd pound burgers on either. This grill is also a bit more powerful, pulling 1800 watts rather than1600, and the red cover is definitely more attractive than the gunmetal gray of our other grill lid.

Disadvantages of this new grill include: 1) it lacks the other grill's adjustable top vent; 2) it lacks the other grill's temperature gauge (though the power dial on both also serves as a thermostat); 3) its grill plates cannot be detached for cleaning; and 4) although it is possible to jam the lid into the rear of the handles as a way of storing it when open, that doesn't work nearly as well as the hanging hook on the inside top of the other grill's lid.

Both grills sit on an almost-identical outdoor base, and both have done an excellent job of grilling steaks for us.

Overall, I prefer this grill over our other indoor/outdoor Foreman grill, but wish this one had the vent, temperature gauge, and removable grill plate of our other grill.

2287 A.D. - After Destruction: A POST-APOCALYPTIC NOVEL (The Chronicles of Ashlyn Parker Book 1)
2287 A.D. - After Destruction: A POST-APOCALYPTIC NOVEL (The Chronicles of Ashlyn Parker Book 1)
Price: $0.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting bargain read, July 18, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is an interesting and somewhat unusual sci-fi novel, combining space war with ideas from the start and end of the Christian Bible, mixed in with lots of extramarital sex. I found that last bit troubling, as did the authors, who went far out of their way to explain why the male protagonist had to sleep with the female protagonist despite being happily married. The other aspect of the plentiful but tastefully mostly off-stage descriptions of sex was that the characters were often having those thoughts when there were more important and urgent tasks if they wanted to survive long enough to HAVE their next encounter.

Most of the battle scenes seemed well handled and credible. And the way stories and characters from the Bible were fleshed out and described in sci-fi terms was also interesting and credible within the story of this book.

The story ends happily, with a warning against reading on unless you like cliffhangers. Before reading on, be aware that the sequel is not expected to be published until December, 2015. On the other hand, those reviewing that book here are promised a free copy of the sequel, along with a hi-res screensaver of the book cover. As for the cliffhanger itself? Less credible than most of the book, but does set up the next book. Sadly, it also sets up more sex, under false pretenses.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 27, 2015 1:01 PM PDT

George Foreman GRP1001BP 6-Serving Removable Plate Grill, Black
George Foreman GRP1001BP 6-Serving Removable Plate Grill, Black
Offered by CrazyLittleDeals
Price: $58.95
8 used & new from $43.15

5.0 out of 5 stars A bit bigger, more powerful, and expected to be 5 times more durable than our beloved 4 year old Foreman grill, July 17, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Much as we love our 4 year old George Foreman GRP4 Next Grilleration 5-Burger Grill with Removable Plates, White, it's sometimes a bit too small for us: holding only 2 of our Costco 1/3rd pound frozen burgers, and no way to cram on a third for a guest. For that reason, I very much looked forward to reviewing this newer and slightly bigger model. Though the specs don't say so, the cooking surface on this model is up from the 72 square inches (12" x 6") of our old grill to about 104 square inches (13" x 8".) That's enough to easily hold a third big burger.

The other key new feature is that its non-stick removable and dishwasher-safe plates are now 5 times more durable than on prior models. That hasn't been a problem with our current grill, but is the reason we had to buy that one after only a couple years use of its predecessor, so we've been babying it.

Other new features include a variable temperature control, 1500 watt output instead of the 1,000 watts we had on the old model, a 3 year limited warranty (2 years on our previous grill), and the removable grill plates on the new model are noticeably lighter in both weight and color than on the old model. There's a handy way to wrap up the power cord under the unit, though the supplied cord is so short I can't see that ever being necessary.

Both models do a great job of accommodating either thin or thick items to be grilled (though not both at once.) The limit is supposed to be one inch thck, but the new one did well with 1.5" steaks tonight. (I will give it at least a minute longer next time than the 4-5 minutes for medium after preheating suggested by the manual.)

The one possible negative is that on the old model the heating wires were embedded, whereas on the new model they are visible right under the grill plates, where it might be a bit of an issue to clean them if that ever proves necessary.

Overall, this new model has now replaced our previous favorite. The new features definitely seem worth the slightly-higher price.

Nature Bound Bug Vacuum and Critter Barn Habitat Combo Set
Nature Bound Bug Vacuum and Critter Barn Habitat Combo Set
Price: $36.99
2 used & new from $32.18

4.0 out of 5 stars Kinder to bugs, and still fun, July 14, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Our big user for this so far is our grandsons' mom, who doesn't like bugs loose in her house, but also doesn't like to harm them.

Making this look just like a 6 shooters (except brigthly colored to avoid neighbors or police mistaking it for one) definitely ups the play value for kids, plus actually works to ease aiming its vacuum at a bug to be investigated.

The critter barn is also well thought out, offering a safe way to store living creatures briefly for study without harming them.

One might wish for a stronger vacuum action. We (and our grandsons) also use a much more costly 18 volt Makita vacuum to remove bugs found inside our house. But this unit's gentle action is kinder to its victims, and just as fun for the kids, aged 7 and 3. It's also VASTLY kinder to them than the salt-powered bug shotgun I was given for Christmas last year that the kids were eager to use until this arrived.

Anti-Slip Anti-Bacterial Bath Mat 16" x 28"
Anti-Slip Anti-Bacterial Bath Mat 16" x 28"
Offered by Perella's
Price: $19.95
4 used & new from $14.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Comfortable and non-slip, July 13, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
We bought this instead of a better-looking carpet-looking mat because reviewers of that one reported it being prone to slips, whereas reviews of this one agree it doesn't slip. That was the key feature, as my wife had just broken a leg, and needed to be as secure as possible in the shower.

This mat has worked very well in that regard - no hint of slipping. She also reports she likes its cushioned feeling under her feet. It also lies flat on the floor of our bath tub, and there's been no sign of bacterial growth or soap scum on it after a month of daily use.

Overall, glad to have it.

Children of the Comet
Children of the Comet
by Donald Moffitt
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.07

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very different, and very satisfying look into our VERY distant future., July 12, 2015
This review is from: Children of the Comet (Paperback)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is way off the deep end even for a sci-fi book, but in an entirely good way. Rather than trying to predict human life a hundred or a thousand years from now, it tackles what such life might be like in 6 billion years, and somehow does so in a way that makes the reader actually care about such a distant prospect.

Equally impressive, it talks about civilizations spanning multiple galaxies without any reliance on faster-than-light travel or communication, rather showing the implications of time dilation as starships travel at very nearly the speed of light.

Initially we meet a very different hunter-gathering civilization, living on trees that in turn live on comets in the Oort cloud. Later, we get to know the folks on a colony-planting starship near one of its colonies, as some on board plan to return to see what has become of Earth after billions of years.

Eventually, the two groups meet, leading to further mostly-positive developments.

I was particularly impressed by the book's discussion of "The First Civilization hypothesis", and how that affects settlements in space, and limits interstellar politics and war. Though it guts most of the theory behind space war books, it makes sense, and I find myself hoping it's true.

As a grandfather, I was also very pleased by the book's explanation of the importance of grandparents in the development of civilization, and intrigued by its idea of the comet-based trees also developing sentience, and of Earth remaining a place far-flung civilizations will still return to visit, long after it ceases to be inhabitable through the aging of our sun.

I also grew fond of most of the people involved, male and female, young and old. Even some of the "bad guys" weren't entirely bad, and violence, though present and well handled, was not a main theme of the book.

Overall, easily the most original sci-fi book I've read in a long time, and among the very best. It's also one I'd happily let my not-yet 8 year old grandson try to read, though I'd suggest he read the Kindle version so he can easily look up the bigger words.

Highly recommended!

Havahart 3147 Critter Ridder Animal Repellent with Nitroplus, 32 oz.
Havahart 3147 Critter Ridder Animal Repellent with Nitroplus, 32 oz.
Price: $29.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to apply. Smells like it's doing something. And one week on, the critters agree and are leaving my plants alone., July 10, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Like other reviewers, I'm not sure how effective this product will be yet, but am very glad it exists, and hope it works. I planted lots of Marigolds in the border of my community garden plot this year, expecting them to keep unwanted critters out of my plot. Instead, they've been feasting on the Marigolds! We have gophers, voles, lizards, rabbits, mice, rats and crows in abundance.

So far, all I know for sure is that application of this was a breeze - just attach it to my hose, turn the water on, turn on the application valve, and point it at the plants to be protected. I see this is supposed to protect 5,000 square feet, so likely over-applied, as I used most of the bottle on about 120 square feet of border. Afterwards, there is a noticeable spicy odor in the air, not unpleasant to me, but an indication something is working. I'll save the rest for a re-application next month, by which time it will be obvious whether it did any good, and I'll update my review, adding or taking away a star as appropriate. Meanwhile, I like it, and hope it works.

Update: One day later, I definitely see more greenery on my 32 surviving Marigolds today after using this on them yesterday. Sad that 32 oz of this costs more than the Marigolds did initially, but is a far wiser use of money than planting what won't survive.
Update#2: Three days later, it's still working. Now 3 more Marigolds show greenery, leaving only 1 that may be beyond help. Adding a star!
Update#3: It's been a week now, and despite being watered daily, and two days of heavy rain, all the critters are leaving not just the treated areas, but my entire garden alone. There used to be little lizards all over it, and now they have all moved on to other nearby garden plots.

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