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Mike Powers "mkp51" RSS Feed (Woolwich, ME USA)
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Prime Instant Video
Prime Instant Video
Price: $0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Finally! Amazon Instant Video comes to all Android devices... with a catch., August 9, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Prime Instant Video (App)
Earlier this month, almost exactly one year after initially launching its "Prime Instant Video" app, Amazon finally released a version that Amazon Prime members can actually use on all their Android devices. And, for the first time, it actually works as advertised!

Before the Amazon "Prime Instant Video" app came along, there were only three ways that I knew of for me to view Amazon Instant Video (AIV) content: I could either fire up my Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablet; I could view content on my PC through the web site; or I could watch through a video streaming service (like Roku) that carries AIV content. Now, with the advent of the latest version of Amazon's "Prime Instant Video" app, I can also view AIV content on my Android-based smart phone and my 10.1-inch LG G-Pad tablet.

...But there is a catch to all this. The installation process for the "Prime Instant Video" app is unnecessarily convoluted and complicated. First you must install the "Amazon Appstore" app on the Android-based device you intend to use; then you must follow the link to the "Prime Instant Video" app, which takes the form of an .apk file. Then, and only then, can you actually install the "Prime Instant Video" app on your devices.

Follow me so far? It gets even more interesting once the app is installed. That's because it works differently on smart phones and small-screen tablets than it does on larger screen (10-inch and above) devices. On smaller devices, the app works as a stand-alone, with its own icon. Tap on the icon, input your user ID and password, and you instantly have access to all Amazon Prime Instant Video content (assuming, of course, you are a member.) On larger-screen tablets, the "Prime Instant Video" app works like a plug-in; you still must access AIV content through the main web site. The difference now is that Prime members have access to all Prime content and their own personal video libraries, which they didn't have before.

Because members must input their user ID and passwords in all cases, streaming video is actually displayed in High Definition. The app actually works quite well on all Android devices.

This whole issue of access to Prime Instant Video and my personal library of purchased content has long been a sore point for me. I always felt I was being denied full access to items I had already paid for, because I couldn't always view content when I wanted; and when I could, I couldn't always view it in High Definition (for which I have always paid extra). That issue is now apparently solved, but at a cost. Unfortunately, Amazon has made the process of obtaining the "Prime Instant Video" app unnecessarily difficult and unwieldly. For that reason, I can only recommend this app with reservations.

Microsoft Office 365 Personal 1 Year Subscription | PC/Mac Download
Microsoft Office 365 Personal 1 Year Subscription | PC/Mac Download
Price: $69.99

4.0 out of 5 stars "Office 365 Personal" subscription provides a major hidden benefit to Android device users., August 4, 2015
I am a long-time user of Microsoft Office. In fact, I have owned versions of Office since Windows 95 debuted twenty years ago.

Late last year, I decided to purchase a subscription to Office 365. I opted for "Office 365 Personal" because it was the least expensive way for me to get the software I wanted with all of the features I needed.

At the time I subscribed, "Office 365 Personal" came with the 2013 versions of Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Word. I use Excel and Word almost every day, PowerPoint infrequently, and OneNote almost never. I found the 2013 versions just different enough in appearance and functionality from my "Office 2007 Home and School" suite that they created a bit of a "learning curve" for me. It didn't take me long to adjust to the changes in the newer versions, but I discovered that I liked the 2007 version just a little bit better - enough so that I eventually gravitated back to using my tried-and-true "Office 2007" programs almost exclusively.

I kept my "Office 365 Personal" subscription active, however, and I'm very glad I did. Earlier this year, Microsoft released "free" versions of "Office 365" for Android devices. There was a catch to this release though: Android versions of Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote provided only limited (what Microsoft euphemistically calls "core") functionality... that is, unless users happened to have an active subscription to any one of the "Office 365" versions. Users {like me) who do have a subscription have all of the "Office 365" features at their fingertips.

Is "Office 365 Personal" worth the money spent on a subscription? If you already own any previous version of Microsoft Office, and use it only on a PC, probably not. However, the program's value rises sharply if you want to use it on any kind of Android-based mobile device. Then a subscription becomes essential and worthwhile in order to take full advantage of everything "Office 365" has to offer. Recommended.

Panasonic DMP-BD77 Ultra-Fast Booting Blu-ray Disc Player
Panasonic DMP-BD77 Ultra-Fast Booting Blu-ray Disc Player
4 used & new from $25.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A good, solid, reliable, basic "workhorse" Blu-ray disc player., July 28, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Last week, my primary Blu-ray disc (BD) player, a six year-old Panasonic DMP-BD75 model, quit working. I really wasn't surprised it broke down; it had been under nearly constant use since I bought it, frequently operating (flawlessly, I might add) for 6-8 hours per day, 7 days per week, for its entire six-year life span.

I immediately began searching for a replacement. When I discovered the Panasonic DMP-BD77 BD player at Amazon, I immediately ordered it. So far, it has proven itself to be a perfect choice to replace my old machine. It's slim, lightweight, and yet durable and reliable. It flawlessly plays every BD and DVD I insert into it. Like its predecessor, it displays stunningly life-like Blu-ray video, and upscaled DVD video that approaches High Definition quality. Audio quality is also superb. The BD-77 player automatically selects the correct audio format contained on the playing disc; formats include DTS Master Audio Multi-channel, Dolby TruHD, and several other audio formats. The BD-77 comes with an excellent remote.

The Panasonic DMP-BD77 is a substantial upgrade from the BD-75 model. It actually does boot and load discs much faster. There are improvements to the firmware, including the ability to do some limited customization (i.e., user video adjustments). The BD-77 is marketed as "wifi ready," which means it contains some internal wifi circuitry, but not a built-in adapter. (Buyers of this player still must purchase a $50 external USB wifi adapter in order to get the full benefits of wifi, which include access to a limited number of video streaming sites.)

So far, I am very pleased with my new Panasonic DMP-BD77 Blu-ray player. I've already begun using it pretty heavily, and it's proving itself at least as durable and reliable as its older cousin. Although it lacks the very latest technology (3D, built-in wifi), it performs its core functions very well. It might not be the absolute best choice for a hi-tech home entertainment center, but it certainly can hold its own as a good, solid, reliable, basic "workhorse" in most living rooms. Recommended.

The Last Lion Box Set: Winston Spencer Churchill, 1874 - 1965
The Last Lion Box Set: Winston Spencer Churchill, 1874 - 1965
by William Manchester
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $72.99
44 used & new from $49.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best account of Winston S. Churchill's life available anywhere in print., July 26, 2015
Sunday, May 10, 2015, marked the 75th anniversary of arguably one of the most important events of World War II, an occurrence that actually may have done more to hasten the eventual Allied victory over Nazi Germany than any other, although that couldn't be known at the time.

On that day, Britain's government, led by Neville Chamberlain, fell, and a man emerged from eight years in the political "wilderness" to take the reins of political power...

That man: Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill.

Sir Winston S. Churchill has been the subject of several fine biographies in recent years. "Winston S. Churchill," by Sir Martin Gilbert, is the seven-volume "official" biography of Britain's greatest statesman; "Churchill: A Life," also by Gilbert, is an outstanding one-volume Churchill biography. Other excellent biographies have been penned by Max Hastings, Roy Jenkins, and Carlo D'Este. The best Churchill biography, however, is arguably the three-volume "The Last Lion," by the late American historian William Manchester (1922-2004).

"The Last Lion: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932," published in 1983, is the first volume of Manchester's three-volume biography covering the long life and political career of Winston S. Churchill. The second volume, "The Last Lion: Alone, 1932-1940," in which Manchester tells the story of Churchill's eight years in the political "wilderness," appeared in 1988. And the final volume - "The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965," co-authored by Manchester and Paul Reid, hit the bookshelves in November 2012.

VISIONS OF GLORY, 1874-1932 (Volume I)

"The Last Lion: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932" is a superbly crafted and highly readable account of Winston S. Churchill's first 58 years, from his earliest days as the neglected first child of Lord Randolph Churchill and his American-born wife, Jennie, to his entry into the political "wilderness" over Indian Home Rule in 1932.

Manchester's portrait of Churchill is always balanced and objective. Winston Churchill was the troubled and troublesome first son of the promiscuous and socially ambitious Jennie Churchill, and her husband, the terminally ill Lord Randolph Churchill. Young Winston constantly craved his parents' affection and attention, but was usually shunted off to boarding school by parents who saw him as a burden on their social lives.

As a young adult, Churchill embarked on a military career as an army officer. He was courageous almost to the point of foolhardiness. In 1900, he was first elected to the House of Commons, where he remained for over a half-century. He switched political parties twice - once from Conservative to Liberal, and then later on, he switched back again. In his early political career, he became one of the youngest Cabinet ministers in British history, thanks in part to his natural political instincts. As a Cabinet Minister, Churchill ensured the enactment of some of the most progressive legislation in British history. But he also exercised appalling political judgment at times; he was quick to meddle in other ministers' affairs while neglecting his own, and possessed an uncanny ability to alienate not only his political foes, but his political allies as well.

The first volume of this magnificent biography ends with Churchill "entering the political wilderness" (being exiled to the "back benches" of the House of Commons) for his unpopular stand on Indian Home Rule, and for his chronic habit of irritating nearly everyone with whom he came in contact. By 1932, the verdict was in: when Russian dictator Josef Stalin inquired about Churchill, a noted British wag laughed scornfully, then sniffed: "Churchill? Oh, he's finished!"

ALONE, 1932-1940 (Volume II)

"The Last Lion: Alone, 1932-1940" is the second volume of William Manchester's brilliant biography of Winston Churchill. It is the shortest of the three volumes, and probably the best. This magnificent sequel seamlessly picks up where the first volume ends and carries Churchill's story forward through what Manchester sees as the most critical years of his life: the eight-years that encompassed Churchill's longest period in the political "wilderness," and ended with his rise to power as Prime Minister of Great Britain on May 10, 1940.

In "The Last Lion: Alone, 1932-1940," Manchester contends that the two decades between World War Iand World War II , and not his years as wartime Prime Minister (1940-1945), were, in fact, Winston S. Churchill's personal "finest hour." During this critical period, while Churchill was in the "political wilderness," sitting forlornly on the back benches of the House of Commons, he was one of only a handful of British politicians who foresaw the dangers posed by the Fascist dictators. He had the necessary expertise to speak out effectively in favor of increased military preparedness as a means of countering the growing Nazi threat in Europe, and the courage to decry his own government's appeasement policies. Despite Hitler's takeover of the Rhineland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia during the 1930s, successive British governments continued to ignore Churchill and appease Germany. Only after Hitler ignited World War II by invading Poland, and it became obvious that all attempts to placate the Nazi dictator had failed, did the British people turn to Winston Churchill to lead them.


William Manchester had begun researching the third volume of his "The Last Lion" triptych even before the publication of "The Last Lion: Alone, 1932-1940." By 1998, he had apparently completed only a small portion of the manuscript for his final volume, which he had tentatively entitled "The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm 1940-1965." He had become aware of the fact that he could no longer write due increasingly poor health, and so he asked Paul Reid, a close friend and an excellent writer, to complete the book. Manchester died in 2004, leaving a reluctant Reid to carry on his work.

The results of Reid's efforts are simply outstanding. Relying on Manchester's copious notes and partially completed manuscript, as well as his own scholarly research, Reid crafted a monumental, highly readable, and historically accurate 1,182-page volume that recounts the final 25 years of Churchill's life. "Defender of the Realm" correctly concentrates on Churchill's time as Britain's Prime Minister during World War II, when he demonstrated all his greatest personality traits - courage, dogged determination, tenacity, and persuasiveness - in leading his nation, especially while it was under attack by the Nazis. Manchester and Reid also recount Churchill's relationship with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, contending that, while their relationship was initially close, it became less so as the war dragged on, American forces took a more prominent role in achieving victory, and Roosevelt saw less need for Churchill as a wartime partner. The authors also recount Churchill's later life: his defeat as Prime Minister in 1945; his re-election in 1950; his retirement; his declining health; and his death in 1965, at age 90.

I thoroughly enjoyed "The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965." When I first began reading it shortly after its publication, I did so with a bit of trepidation. How would Reid's research, writing style, and historical accuracy measure up against the great William Manchester? I needn't have worried. I found it difficult to detect where Manchester leaves off and Reid begins. Overall, I think Reid's prose is a bit more wordy than Manchester's, and perhaps not as lively. But the book's historical accuracy is based on sound, thoroughly documented research, and is beyond scrutiny.

I own "The Last Lion: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932," " The Last Lion: Alone, 1932-1940," and "The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965. " All three volumes clearly demonstrate why William Manchester was one of the pre-eminent historians and biographers of his day, and also why Paul Reid was absolutely the best choice to complete Manchester's work. These volumes are written with obviously meticulous scholarship, insightful analysis, and crisp, sparkling prose; there is no better account of Churchill's life anywhere in print. Most highly recommended.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 28, 2015 9:41 PM PDT

The Caine Mutiny: A Novel of World War II
The Caine Mutiny: A Novel of World War II
Offered by Hachette Book Group
Price: $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A good old-fashioned novel that entertains and keeps readers engaged., July 26, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
"The Caine Mutiny" is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Herman Wouk. Written in 1950, it tells the story of a fictional mutiny that takes place aboard a decrepit U.S. Navy destroyer- minesweeper during World War II.

This is an outstanding novel in every respect. It tells its story through the eyes of Ensign Willie Keith, a newly minted naval reserve officer who reports aboard the "USS Caine" as his first assignment. The "Caine" is a broken down, World War I vintage "rust-bucket," with a slovenly crew and an outwardly hard-nosed captain, Lt. Commander William DeVriess. Keith and DeVriess take an immediate dislike to each other, and are constantly at odds.

Keith is glad when DeVriess is relieved as ship's captain by Lt. Commander Philip Queeg, who appears at first as an outwardly affable but by-the-book officer. Hopes initially rise that life aboard the "Caine" will get better, but it soon becomes evident that things are going to be much worse under Queeg's command. A series of incidents occur that show Queeg to be an incompetent commander; an overbearing tyrant who browbeats his officers and crew, blames everyone else but himself for his mistakes, displays cowardice under fire, obsesses about petty incidents aboard ship, and displays personality traits that reveal an unstable mind.

Three of the "Caine's" officers - Keith, Lt. Tom Keefer, and the ship's executive officer, Lt. Steve Maryk - all eventually become convinced that Queeg is so mentally unstable that he should be replaced as captain of the "Caine." Maryk and Keefer initially intend to request Queeg's relief from higher headquarters, but back out at the last minute.

Soon after that, the "Caine" finds itself as one of several ships riding out a typhoon in the Pacific. The ship is soon in mortal danger; Queeg issues a series of orders that will only make matters worse for the ship, possibly resulting in its loss with all hands. Maryk countermands Queeg's orders and relieves the captain. Keith and Keefer are present at the time and concur with Maryk's decisions.

I won't give away any more of the story. You'll have to read this outstanding novel to find out what happens to the "Caine" and its officers and crew.

I first read "The Caine Mutiny" when I was still in high school, some forty-plus years ago. I re-read it just a few short weeks ago, and enjoyed it just as much the second time I read it as I did the first. It's one of those good, old-fashioned novels that has a fascinating plot, extremely well-developed characters, and a style of prose that keeps readers engaged throughout its 500-plus pages. Above all, "The Caine Mutiny" book entertains. Highly recommended.

Amazon Kindle Fire 5ft USB to Micro-USB Cable (works with most Micro-USB Tablets)
Amazon Kindle Fire 5ft USB to Micro-USB Cable (works with most Micro-USB Tablets)
Price: $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does its job very well., July 22, 2015
I needed an extra micro-USB cable because I have several battery operated devices in use in my home nearly all the time. I chose the Kindle Fire 5-foot cable because of its extra length, reliability, and versatility.

I use this cable primarily for data transfer between my laptop and all my mobile devices. (It works equally well with all my Kindle devices, smart phone, 10-inch tablet, and digital camera.) In every case, it does its job very well. Data transfers are always quick and trouble free, even with large files like digital photos. On rare occasions, I have used it as a spare charging cable as well, and again it performs very well.

The Amazon Kindle Fire 5-foot micro-USB cable is obviously well constructed. Connectors are very sturdy and fit snugly into their ports without being too tight. This is an overall excellent product. Highly recommended.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Season 2
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Season 2
DVD ~ William Petersen
Price: $12.62
172 used & new from $4.00

5.0 out of 5 stars The best police procedural ever gets even better., July 13, 2015
When "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" Season 1 ended in May 2001, it had firmly entrenched itself as one of my all-time favorite shows. With its superb cast and intelligently written, suspenseful episodes, it was one of only a very few shows that I would make time to watch every week.

"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" Season 2, which premiered in September 2001, was just as strong as the inaugural season. Once again, viewers are transported to the grave shift at the Las Vegas crime lab. Gil Grissom (William Peterson) and his crack team of field investigators Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger), Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan), Nick Stokes (George Eads), and Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox), tackle a series of cases that certainly challenge every one of their investigative and deductive skills. They are assisted by several "lab rats" - technicians who work inside the crime lab in their own specialties. Most notable among them are Greg Sanders (Eric Szmanda), the DNA technician; Archie Johnson (Archie Kao), the electronics whiz; and Bobby Dawson (Gerald McCullough), the firearms and ballistics expert. Rounding out the night shift is Captain Jim Brass (Paul Guilfoyle), a hard-boiled, cynical detective who serves as the police department's liaison with the crime lab.

"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" Season 2 has several notable episodes, including "Slaves of Las Vegas," where Grissom and his team investigate a murder at a fetish house run by dominatrix Lady Heather; "Identity Crisis," where serial killer Paul Millander returns from Season 1 and once again proves himself one of Gil Grissom's most puzzling and sinister nemeses; and "Cross Jurisdictions," where the Las Vegas crime lab joins forces with the "CSI: Miami" team in order to investigate and solve a series of grisly murders at both locations.

These and other episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" Season 2 continue the very high standards of excellence established in Season 1, and confirm this show as the best police procedural drama of its generation... and perhaps of all time. Highly recommended.

Homelegance 9734DB-1 Upholstered Chair, Dark Brown Bonded Leather Match
Homelegance 9734DB-1 Upholstered Chair, Dark Brown Bonded Leather Match

5.0 out of 5 stars The final upgrade to our living room furniture is also the best., July 7, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
We've slowly been replacing some old, worn out pieces of living room furniture with newer and more stylish ones. So far, we've mostly been successful, as we've added an excellent Avenue Six Curves Tufted Chair. Chocolate Fabric, and another bonded leather accent chair. We've also met with less success, as one chair we ordered turned out to be be unsuitable for our needs.

The final addition to our living room is also the best: this Homelegance 9734DB-1 upholstered chair. This is a stunningly beautiful chair made from both bonded leather and bicast material. When we unboxed it, we found a beautiful, well-built, dark brown chair with a thickly padded, leather-like covering that was obviously very well stitched together. It looks great in our living room!

This chair is extremely comfortable. The seating area is both wide and deep enough to accommodate my large, slightly overweight frame. The seat cushion has just the right amount of firmness to give me plenty of back and leg support, without being too hard. The back cushion is very soft and plush, and feels like a large, luxurious leather-covered pillow.

Chair assembly was very simple. We took it out of the box, screwed the legs on, flipped the hinged back plate into its upright position, and added the seat and back cushions. (Both cushions are held in place with Velcro strips.) Then we sat down and enjoyed the comfort...

I have one minor gripe: the Homelegance 9734DB-1 chair shipped with plastic legs rather than wooden ones. Although it's very hard to detect what the legs are made from, I do think a piece of furniture of such obviously high quality as this deserves wooden legs rather than plastic ones.

Despite this one very slight imperfection in an otherwise perfect chair, I'm awarding it five stars and my highest recommendation.

Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim Ultra-Slim Laptop Cooling Pad with 160mm Fan (R9-NBC-XSLI-GP)
Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim Ultra-Slim Laptop Cooling Pad with 160mm Fan (R9-NBC-XSLI-GP)
Price: $17.99
44 used & new from $16.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent device that keeps my laptop cool., July 7, 2015
I purchased Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim Ultra-Slim Laptop Cooling Pads for both my wife's and my laptop computers. These are excellent cooling pads that continue to make a noticeable difference in the operating temperatures of both our computers.

The features I like best about our NotePal X-Slim Ultra Slim cooling pads:

1. They turn on automatically when we boot our computers. No forgetting to turn on the cooling pad, and no fumbling for power buttons or switches.

2. Each of their large single fans gently blows a high volume, continuous stream of cool air into the vents on the undersides of our computers.

3. Our NotePal Xs are unbelievably quiet. Sometimes I can't tell the difference between the barely audible fans of the cooling pads and the computer's internal cooling fans.

4. Our NotePal Xs are thin, of sturdy construction, but also lightweight. Because they're slightly larger than our 15.6-inch computers, and their entire surfaces are a metallic screen, they allow air to blow not only directly into the computers, but along their edges as well.

5. Our NotePal Xs do their jobs very effectively. Our computers' operating temperatures immediately dropped by an average of 4 degrees Celsius with the pads in place and running.

The Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim Ultra Slim Laptop Cooling Pad is an essential device for keeping your laptop cool and extending its life. Highly recommended.

World Atlas
World Atlas
Price: $0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A nice addition to my reference app library., July 7, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: World Atlas (App)
I purchased "World Atlas" because I wanted an Android-based reference app that would show me maps and other basic information about different countries of the world. As a basic atlas, this app is actually pretty good.

"World Atlas" uses Google Maps and Wikipedia to provide me with the information I request. When the app opens, it shows an array of flags of every nation, divided by continent. When I tap on a flag, a basic map appears along with that nation's basic geographical information. When I tap on the map, "World Atlas" pulls up Google Maps and displays a detailed map of the country. I can then zoom and use different views (satellite, physical topography, political) in the same way I use Google Maps as a standalone app. Both the maps and the Wikipedia data appear to be current and constantly updated.

"World Atlas" isn't the smoothest or most refined app I've ever seen, but it works well and is a nice addition to my Android reference app library. Recommended.

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