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CrunchyCookie RSS Feed (Palo Alto, CA)

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Maxell 648200 700 MB 80 min CD-R 100 Pack
Maxell 648200 700 MB 80 min CD-R 100 Pack
Price: $22.77
83 used & new from $19.40

2.0 out of 5 stars High failure rate, January 21, 2015
I burned about a dozen of these Maxell CD-Rs in the past week, and most didn't turn out so well. Roughly 1/4th had annoying skips & hiccups in the occasional track, and 1/4th were error-ridden to the point of being unplayable. Another 1/4th were so glitchy, they made the CD burning program choke and give up halfway through the writing process! Slowing down the speed to 24X seemed to reduce the errors, but not by much, and for discs that are rated "48X" I shouldn't have to do that anyway.

I'm using proven, quality components here -- Nero Burning ROM, a Sony drive, and a Pioneer CD car stereo -- and they delivered perfect results almost all the time back when I used Sony discs. I feel pretty confident in blaming Maxell quality.

Logitech Media Combo MK200 Full-Size Keyboard and High-Definition Optical Mouse (920-002714)
Logitech Media Combo MK200 Full-Size Keyboard and High-Definition Optical Mouse (920-002714)
Offered by Robert`s Fojjer
Price: $22.80
45 used & new from $13.40

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, though I've had better, January 15, 2015
This combo satisfies in all the essential ways: both the keyboard and mouse feel sturdy, look good, and have no great flaws. They're both laid out well, too: the mouse is a comfortable size/height and has a scroll wheel that takes just the right amount of pressure, and the keyboard doesn't mess with tradition, putting all keys exactly where they belong. $25's a fair deal, and the keyboard is exclusive to this combo, because Logitech's only stand-alone wired keyboard is the K120, which lacks the handy row of shortcuts on top. (The mouse, on the other hand, is identical to Logitech's M100 aside from adding a gray stripe around the middle.)

But I can't give it a fifth star because I've seen the mountaintop, and these Logitechs don't reach quite as high. The best keyboard in the history of the world was Microsoft's "Internet Keyboard", which had slightly greater tactile satisfaction thanks to keys with faster/firmer bounceback, and the best mouse ever created by man was Creative Labs' "Mouse Optical 3000", which had a more comfortable, curved shape that was ideally shaped for a right hand. Too bad both of those models went extinct in the 2000s. These days, Microsoft's keyboards kind of suck while Creative seems to have quit the peripherals business entirely.

So these Logitechs aren't the best of all time, but they might be the best you can buy right now.

Zalman CNPS7000C-ALCU 92mm 2 Ball Cooling Fan
Zalman CNPS7000C-ALCU 92mm 2 Ball Cooling Fan
Price: $29.99
12 used & new from $12.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An obvious reduction in noise, June 21, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I built myself a Core 2 Duo computer in 2008, which means I was always stuck with the annoyingly loud stock Intel fan. Switched to this Zalman today and HOT DAMN, WHAT A DIFFERENCE -- the new fan is still audible, but the volume is noticeably lower, and more importantly, the constant high-frequency pitch of the Intel crap (the unpleasant part) is totally missing.

Since I also use a similarly expensive silent power supply (and a fanless video card), pretty much all I hear from my computer these days is the hard drive when it's working.

My subliminal daily rage is gone. Well worth $23.

Oral-B Complete SaTinfloss Twin Pack 100 M
Oral-B Complete SaTinfloss Twin Pack 100 M
Price: $4.27

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shreds on contact, June 5, 2014
Are any of these reviews real? This is a disgraceful floss that starts falling apart after 2 or 3 insertions between your teeth. After you're done, it feels like you have to floss a second time just to fish out the shredded strands.

It didn't use to be this way. I consistently used Oral-B floss for years starting around 2000, but right around 2007 they downgraded to this lower-quality material (for both their "Satin Floss" and "Satin Tape" lines), and so it remains to this day.

The main alternatives are Glide (now owned by Oral-B, strangely enough) and Johnson & Johnson's Reach. I've had better luck with both of those, though Reach is a tad thick.

Dickies Men's Solo Soft Toe Work Shoe
Dickies Men's Solo Soft Toe Work Shoe
Price: $46.44 - $59.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Neither steel-toed nor wide, April 25, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Amazon's product listings can sometimes be wonky, and so it is with these Dickies Solo shoes. There exists a duplicate listing for what seems to be this exact same model ( For THAT one, the words "steel toe" are printed right on the shoe, and it's only available in regular sizes. For THIS one, you can only buy Wide sizes, and while there's no marking of "steel toe" on the shoe, it does say "steel toe" in the title, which I figured I could trust.

Well, the shoes arrived today, and they're definitely not steel-toed. I also doubt they're Wide -- they don't feel it, and nothing on the inner label or box indicates they are. Are there two versions of this model? Hard to say, since it doesn't exist on Dickies' website and there are no reviews on it anywhere. Dickies and Amazon both need to get their act together.

From what I can tell after 10 minutes of wearing them around the house, the shoes themselves are OK, nothing special. Comfortable enough, but not very plushly padded and they kind of stab the fronts of my ankles. The fit is a tad loose, too.

If you need steel toes and want a sneaker-style shoe, I'd go for one of the models in Reebok's "Work" line. I went with the Leelap ($81) and find them awesomely comfortable. A cheaper alternative is going to Payless and picking up a pair of Dexter Men's Wrench Steel Toe Hikers for $40 -- they're great aside from the front being too narrow/hard for me (it hurt my right big toe). Skechers also sells a pair, and Wal-Mart has some crap too. Not a lot of choices out there, though.

ASICS Men's GEL-CONTEND (4E) Running Shoe,White/Black/Blue,12 4E US
ASICS Men's GEL-CONTEND (4E) Running Shoe,White/Black/Blue,12 4E US
Offered by Road Runner Sports
Price: $59.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Half of a great shoe, April 15, 2014
Asics calls the Contend an "entry-level" shoe for new runners, which sounds about right. It's perfectly decent and well-made, but the plush, luxurious feeling in some higher-end Asics (like the Kahana) just isn't there. It seems like they only put the "Gel" stuff in the back half of the shoe; the front of your feet sort of feel like they're barefoot. Still, they're light, breathe well, and are comfortable enough for long-distance walking.

I bought mine in 2013 when they were a new model; 11 months later now, they're starting to fall apart -- a decent lifespan. They were born with a retail price of $60; I got them on a $50 sale, and can easily recommend them at the $40 clearance price that Amazon, Big 5, and Sports Authority all seem to be promoting now that the sequel (the Contend 2) has come out.

PS - Asics tend to run narrow. Consider buying this 4E size even if your feet aren't wide.

Metra 99-7506 Single DIN/Double DIN Installation Kit for 2006-2008 Mazda Miata MX-5 Vehicles (Black)
Metra 99-7506 Single DIN/Double DIN Installation Kit for 2006-2008 Mazda Miata MX-5 Vehicles (Black)
Offered by caraudiodistributors
Price: $24.95
14 used & new from $24.95

2.0 out of 5 stars Inspect the contents carefully, February 14, 2014
Much like the first reviewer, I got a packet that was missing pieces -- in my case, the two side brackets that attach to the sides of the radio. Metra seems to frequently have issues with shoddy workmanship, missing parts, and incorrect item numbers on their website. Expect to be ignored if you call in for help.

So if you buy one of these kits, be sure to do the install before your return window closes.

ZTE Valet Android Prepaid Phone (TracFone)
ZTE Valet Android Prepaid Phone (TracFone)
Offered by shopcelldeals
Price: $19.99
16 used & new from $14.97

1.0 out of 5 stars Cheap crap with a short lifespan, January 5, 2014
[Review re-written in September 2014]

Generally speaking, this is a 3-star phone at best. It's not because of the low-end specs you'd expect at its discount price point -- 3G, 3.5" screen, 1 GHz single-core processor, blurry 3 megapixel camera with no autofocus -- all of which are fine with me. Actually, having Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and 4 GB of internal storage is kind of impressive. So is having a non-slippery, smudge-resistant body with a camera button on the side (rare these days).

But a couple things are broken out of the box. The touch screen is insensitive and inconsistent, sometimes registering your fingers and sometimes not. The Wi-Fi is weak, barely able to see the router in your own living room. Apps and the camera sometimes crash, requiring a reboot to get them working again. There's also this quirk that causes it to randomly add extra home screens that I have to delete every few days. Annoying.

Then after a while, stuff starts to break for real. At some point it will spontaneously forget your settings (sounds, ringtones, vibration, screen rotation). Then the in-call menu will grow unstable, making it impossible to use the dialpad or speakerphone, or even hang up. For me, the final nail in the coffin (literally) came at the 8-month mark -- I stopped being able to speak into the phone. No matter who calls who, I can hear the other person but they can't hear me. So as far as being a phone, this one couldn't even make it to the 1-year mark. Pathetic.

If you're thinking of the other three Tracfone models, keep in mind that two of them are even worse:
-The Samsung Galaxy Centura ($130) has decent specs (Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, 1 GHz processor, more memory) but everyone says it's prone to randomly crashing, freezing, and forgetting what time it is.
-The Huawei Glory ($100), which is even more screwed up. See any review for details.
-The third one is the LG Optimus Dynamic II -- the only one that's worth even looking at. I replaced my Valet with it and am happy so far.

The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel (Revised Edition) (Collins Business Essentials)
The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel (Revised Edition) (Collins Business Essentials)
by Benjamin Graham
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.20
178 used & new from $6.62

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two books in one, and I prefer the second, January 5, 2014
The Intelligent Investor is basically two books in one: the original by Benjamin Graham, interspersed with a ton of commentary/reinterpretation by some CNN writer named Jason Zweig (written in 2003) that forms a story of nearly the same length. Most of the high-rated Amazon reviews have been praising the original material while dismissing the updates as annoying or distasteful, likening Zweig's contributions to that old Microsoft paperclip that springs up when you're trying to write a Word document.

I'm gonna go against the crowd here by proclaiming Zweig's stuff the main attraction. It's hard to explain why exactly, but I found Graham's writing to be a bit dense and uninvolving. And while his foundational advice may be timeless, it's also outdated at the detail level, having been written in 1949 and last updated in 1973. As a result, I found myself kind of skimming over his stuff and only half-absorbing it.

Zweig, on the other hand, is a talented storyteller. There's a flair in his writing and he's an easier personality to relate to. These qualities also come with no sacrifice, since I found his advice equally sensible and his examples just as meaty. The simple fact that it was written in this century also helps quite a bit, since aside from the business world changing quite a bit in the past half-century, it's nice when the discussion involves companies we can actually relate to. The difference is so pronounced that after the first 10 chapters (there are 20 in all), I just stopped reading the old stuff and went straight to the new. They cover the same material anyway.

I agree that Zweig's eternal footnotes can get annoying (they often take up half a page or spill over onto the next one), but other than that minor issue, I enjoyed The Intelligent Investor quite a bit.

JVC HAS650 Black Series High Quality Headphones
JVC HAS650 Black Series High Quality Headphones
Offered by Direct Distributor
Price: $31.98
14 used & new from $31.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to ask for more, December 26, 2013
It's hard to choose a pair of headphones going on looks, specs, or reviews. This pair taught me you can't go on brand, either. I recently owned a lower-end model in JVC's family, the "Flats", and found them a tad too true to their name, with flat, boring sound that takes all joy out of listening (it's probably a Japanese thing -- they seem to like things plain). But just a few more bucks buys these HA-S650s, JVC's top-of-the-line "on-ear" headphones that post better specs and a more vibrant personality: the trebles have more crispness, the bass has punch, and the presentation of sound is more pleasing all-around.

Sound quality is of course subjective, so FYI my personal bias is about halfway between that of an audiophile and a typical American kid: I like that "power" sound but don't want to sacrifice accuracy. The objective part is that these JVCs blow away those pathetic $200 Dr. Dre Beats headphones on both counts.

These headphones get the details right, too. Specs are impressive (8-26,000 Hz range, 112 dB sensitivity), thanks in part to bigger-than-average 36 mm drivers. They look good, and at 3.6 oz, they're light. They use a high-quality steel headband and the earpieces fold flat. They clamp around your ears with just the right amount of force (certain Sennheisers, Pioneers, and Yamahas suffer from excessive tightness, say the Amazon reviews). Finally, they have an MSRP of $70 -- pretty reasonable considering Pioneer/Yamaha/Onkyo/Denon/TDK think they can charge ~$150 for something similar -- and the actual Internet street price seems to be half that amount. Better headphones exist in this world, but not under $50.

When a product nails every category you can think of and then underprices the competition by a matter of multiples, you can't NOT give it five stars.

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