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Reviews Written by
Mike Powers "mkp51" RSS Feed (Woolwich, ME USA)
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The Federalist Papers
The Federalist Papers
Price: $0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars “The Federalist Papers:” essential reading for anyone wishing to explore the American Constitution and system of government., April 26, 2016
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“The Federalist Papers” (more correctly called “The Federalist”) is a series of 85 essays that seek to explain the United States Constitution and the American system of government. Written between 1787 and 1788 by Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, these documents were published in order to persuade citizens to vote in favor of ratifying the Constitution.

I think “The Federalist Papers” rank alongside the Constitution and Declaration of Independence as the most important documents in American history. They are absolutely essential reading for anyone wishing to explore and understand how and why the American system of government works the way it does. Because they’re written in a style common to 18th century writers, “The Federalist Papers” can frequently be tedious to read. (Nobody will ever accuse Hamilton, Madison, or Jay of having a particularly lively or interesting writing style.)

However stilted their writing style, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay’s arguments are clear, cogent and persuasive. They are of immeasurable help in providing readers with a clear understanding of what the framers of the Constitution intended, and how the Federal system of American government works.

This particular edition of "The Federalist Papers" is specially prepared for use on Kindle devices. There is no explanatory introduction by legal scholars or political pundits. Nor are there any endnotes or footnotes. Readers are permitted to read these essays as they were written, and to form their own judgments about what they've read. Most highly recommended.

The Martian [Blu-ray]
The Martian [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Matt Damon
Price: $17.99
61 used & new from $11.75

5.0 out of 5 stars "The Martian:" One of the best science fiction movies I've seen in a very long time., April 26, 2016
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This review is from: The Martian [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
“The Martian” is a wonderful movie. It’s a nearly perfect blend of drama, high adventure, suspense, comedy, and realistically futuristic technology. Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Sean Bean, and directed by Ridley Scott, it tells the story of an American astronaut who must fight for his survival after becoming stranded on Mars.

It is the year 2035. Mark Watney (Damon) is a member of the six-person crew of astronauts on the Ares III mission to Mars. When he is struck by flying debris during a blinding windstorm, he is presumed dead by Commander Melissa Lewis (Chastain) his other five crew mates. They are forced to leave Watney behind on the Red Planet when the mission is scrubbed.

But Watney is not dead but only badly injured. He’s completely alone and stranded 140 million miles from home. The next mission to Mars won’t reach him for another four years. Now he must figure out how to survive until someone can come and rescue him.

Meanwhile, back on earth, officials at NASA soon learn that the astronaut they thought was dead is very much alive. They must figure out a way to rescue him before his food and supplies run out. They find their efforts slowed by internal politics and bureaucratic infighting, and a catastrophic event that could leave Watney stranded on Mars forever…

There is a whole lot to like about “The Martian.” The film features Matt Damon in his most engaging role. He portrays Mark Watney as smart, decisive, ingenious, unflappable, and with a keen sense of humor. He allows himself only a few minutes of fear before he decides to buckle down, “science the sh!t” out of his problem, and find a way to survive long enough to get home. I think Damon’s scenes on Mars are among the most enjoyable of the film.

The scenes featuring NASA’s efforts to rescue Watney are also excellent. NASA Director Teddy Sanders (Daniels) and Mars Mission Director Vincent Kapoor (Ojiofor) find themselves at loggerheads with Crew Director Mitch Henderson (Bean) in making the necessary decisions to rescue Watney. These scenes are quite realistic in their depiction of the infighting and political wrangling that frequently goes on in a bureaucracy.

“The Martian” is undoubtedly the best science fiction movie that I’ve seen in a long, long time. Highly recommended.

The Caine Mutiny
The Caine Mutiny
Price: $12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "The Caine Mutiny:" a good, old-fashioned movie from 1954 still provides great entertainment., April 24, 2016
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This review is from: The Caine Mutiny (Amazon Video)
“The Caine Mutiny” is an excellent film based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same title by Herman Wouk. Released in 1954, three years after the book’s publication, it tells with great faithfulness to Wouk’s excellent novel the tale of a fictional mutiny that takes place aboard a hard-luck navy destroyer-minesweeper, the “USS Caine,” during World War II.

“The Caine Mutiny” stars Humphrey Bogart, José Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, and Robert Francis, and was directed by Edward Dmytryk. For those not familiar with the story, it’s told through the eyes of one Ensign Willie Keith (Francis), 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. Everyone hopes that things are about to improve, but they don’t. In fact, things get much worse with Queeg in command. The new commander soon proves himself incompetent at his job, as well as a petty tyrant. He constantly berates 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 relieved as captain of the “Caine,” and they begin looking for any opportunity to see to his replacement…

I won’t give away any more of the story. You’ll have to watch this outstanding film to see find out what happens to the “Caine, ” its commander, and its officers and crew.

I first read “The Caine Mutiny” book when I was still in high school, some forty-plus years ago. Many years later, I watched the film for the first time. It really is one of those good old-fashioned movies with a wonderful cast, a great plot, and high production values. Although it seems a bit dated by today’s standards, it holds up very well indeed, and remains enjoyable, even after many viewings.. Highly recommended.

Roku 2 Streaming Media Player (4210R) with Faster Processor (2015 model)
Roku 2 Streaming Media Player (4210R) with Faster Processor (2015 model)
Price: $62.99
47 used & new from $52.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roku 2 Streaming Media Player: the final addition to our entertainment center completes our “cord-cutting.”, April 24, 2016
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This weekend we completed our transition from satellite TV to video streaming only… a process affectionately known as “cutting the cord.” We added a Roku 2 streaming media player to the TV in our guest room and moved our Roku 3500 streaming stick to the TV in our living room.

I decided on the Roku 2 device instead of another Roku 3500 streaming stick because I figured it would be a good “middle ground” between my Roku 3 and Roku 3500. I was correct in my thinking. The Roku 2 is an excellent all-around device, and certainly several steps up from the streaming stick. And, it works so well that I find it difficult to see the difference between it and the more advanced Roku 3.

Overall, the Roku 2 streaming media player performs extremely well. The processor is noticeably much faster; there’s virtually no evidence of video stutter, blanking, or lagging due to slow processing and buffering. As with our other Roku devices, its HD video and digital surround sound are of the highest quality, and was easy to set up.

We remain impressed with the enormous number of channels available through the Roku streaming service. In fact, we found it imperative to narrow our choices to a manageable number of channels. Our favorites include Amazon Video, Hulu, SlingTV, PBS, and Vudu. We continue to explore Roku’s channel store in order to find channels that might interest us.

Our decision to cancel our satellite TV subscription is firm and final. Our Roku 3500R, Roku 2, and Roku 3 devices are now connected and working flawlessly to bring us high quality TV viewing at a fraction of the price we were paying our satellite TV provider. Highly recommended.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 26, 2016 9:57 AM PDT

Accuteck S 50 lb x 0.2 oz All-In-One Digital Shipping Postal Scale with AC Postage (W-8250-50BS)
Accuteck S 50 lb x 0.2 oz All-In-One Digital Shipping Postal Scale with AC Postage (W-8250-50BS)
Offered by Newcool Store From USA
Price: $49.99
8 used & new from $16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accuteck All-in-One Digital Scale: an essential tool for my business that helps me minimize my postage costs., April 20, 2016
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I purchased my Accuteck All-in-One Digital Scale in order to help me calculate the cost of postage accurately for the many small parcels I mail out each week. Prior to having this scale, I was estimating the weight of my parcels, and it didn't take me long to discover that my estimates were almost always wrong... on the heavy side. As a result, I was spending a lot of unnecessary money for postage.

When I opened the box with my new Accuteck digital scale in it, I was immediately surprised by two things: 1.) How very well constructed this item is; and 2.) how compact it is, considering its capability to weigh items up to 50 pounds (22.68kg).

Here are some of the things I like best about my Accuteck digital scale:

1. As I mentioned before, it is very well built and compact in size. It fits easily into a small space on a desktop.

2. The digital display is large and easy to read.

3. It operates on both battery and AC power, and an AC adapter and three AAA batteries are included.

4. The scale is dead-on accurate. I checked its precision using a few items of known weight, and it weighed each item to within 0.01 ounce (283.5mg) of its stated weight. The scale required no calibration. It was ready to go right out of the box.

5. It is very good value for money.

In the few days I've owned my new Accuteck digital scale, I've used it frequently, and it has already enabled me to save on the cost of postage for items I've mailed. I think this is an essential tool for anyone operating any small online retail business. Highly recommended.

Copag Poker Size Regular Index 1546 Playing Cards 2 decks (Black Gold Setup)
Copag Poker Size Regular Index 1546 Playing Cards 2 decks (Black Gold Setup)
Price: $11.58
31 used & new from $9.84

5.0 out of 5 stars COPAG 1546 plastic playing cards: strong, durable, and a very good value for money., April 18, 2016
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I play a lot of card games - mostly solitaire - and, as a result, I end up wearing out a lot of card decks. (I much prefer playing solitaire with real cards to playing computer solitaire; I have always loved the "feel" of a deck of real playing cards in my hands.)

I decided to try out a set of COPAG plastic playing cards after watching several very positive online video reviews of them. I found a two-deck set of COPAG 1546s at Amazon at a great price, so I bought them. So far, I have been completely satisfied with them.

To me, it's clear that these COPAG 1546 cards are vastly superior in every way to paper cards, and they hold their own very well against other brands of plastic cards. They slide and "fan" easily; they're wonderfully flexible; they shuffle effortlessly; the colors on both sides of each card are more vibrant; and they don’t appear to be susceptible to breaking, cracking, or warping under normal use, as are some other brands of plastic cards. And, at around $10 for two decks, I think they are a pretty good buy.

I've already given both decks of my new COPAG plastic playing cards a good workout, and every indication is that they are as strong and durable as they are attractive. I'm sure I will get many years of use out of these truly excellent cards. Highly recommended.

The Boston Red Sox 2004 World Series Collector's Edition
The Boston Red Sox 2004 World Series Collector's Edition
DVD ~ Curt Schilling
Price: $37.91
18 used & new from $26.04

4.0 out of 5 stars Despite its many technical flaws, the 2004 World Series Collector’s Edition is still a “must-own” for Red Sox fans., April 18, 2016
Now that my beloved Boston Red Sox have returned to the former levels of mediocrity that I remember so very well from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, I find myself digging frequently into my DVD archives and reliving the team’s greatest moments of glory from the 2000s and 2010s. To me, the Red Sox’s most glorious moment came in 2004 when they won their first World Series in 86 years.

I own the 2004 World Series Collector’s Edition DVD set, and I recently started watching it again. All of the gut-wrenching action from both the World Series, and especially the American League Championship Series (ALCS), is contained in this 12-disc set. Whenever I watch it, I find myself cringing as the Sox lose their first three ALCS games against the hated New York Yankees; but then I cheer as they come back to sweep the next four games (becoming the first team in any American professional sport to do so), and punch their ticket to the World Series. The '04 World Series itself is actually anticlimactic, but I still love watching my beloved Sox breeze to their somewhat unexpected four-game sweep of the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Unfortunately, the 2004 World Series Collector’s Edition DVD set is seriously marred by poor technical quality. Even though the Fox Network originally broadcast these games in High Definition, with its 16:9 aspect ratio, the games as recorded on these discs are compressed backwards into Standard Definition video quality with its 4:3 aspect ratio. As a result, I’m treated to those hideous black bars on both sides of the video presentation on my HDTV. The video quality is very poor: fuzzy, lacking detail, and with washed out colors. I almost get the feeling I’m watching these games on my old-fashioned clunker of a TV set from the 1980s…

It’s a shame that producers A&E/MLB opted to mangle this important and exciting playoff series in this way. I think I understand why they did, however. It was probably the only way they were able to include all eleven of these incredible games in an affordable package for consumers. I still treasure my 2004 World Series Collector’s Edition, despite its many technical flaws. Recommended.

Price: $0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Attention "cord-cutters:" Hulu is one of the better video streaming alternatives available., April 16, 2016
This review is from: Hulu (App)
Our first video streaming device was a Roku 3, which features Hulu as one of its streaming services. I tried it out for its week-long trial period, saw the multitude of ads shown on Hulu, and decided against continuing with it.

Three years later, we've "cut the cord" to our satellite TV provider and gone solely with streaming video. By this time, Hulu was offering both a "limited commercial" option for $7.99 and commercial-free option for $11.99. Since no commercials are better than limited commercials, and $11.99 is better than the $130 per month we were forking over to our (former} satellite TV provider, we decided to sign back up for Hulu.

So far, it's turned out to be a pretty good service. Hulu's on-screen navigation isn't quite as "clunky" as I remember it, and streaming performance is quite smooth. Video and audio quality meet expectations.

The Hulu app also works quite well on my smartphone, tablet, and Kindle Fire HD7. Hulu does have a one-stream-art-a-time restriction, but they don't always seem to enforce it. I've had Hulu playing on two devices a few times.

Hulu's programming certainly gives me plenty of choices, especially with TV shows. Almost all of my favorites from years past are there, and newer ones can usually be seen within 24 hours after initial broadcast. This is much better than other streaming video services' offerings.

For those contemplating "cutting the cord," Hulu is one of the better streaming options available. Recommended.

My Fair Lady [Blu-ray]
My Fair Lady [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Audrey Hepburn
40 used & new from $18.92

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "My Fair Lady" 50th Anniversary Edition restores a classic musical to its original glory., April 16, 2016
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This review is from: My Fair Lady [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Last week I watched “My Fair Lady” for perhaps the 50th time since I first saw it in a theater way back in 1965. This film has always ranked very high on my “Top 10” list of favorite movies, and places an extremely close second to “The Sound of Music” on my list of favorite musicals.

I have watched “My Fair Lady” in many home video formats: Betamax and VHS tape cassettes, DVD, and Blu-ray. When I watched this film last week, there was one major difference: I was watching the 50th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray, which is an all-new 4K restoration of the film. The difference between it and all previous versions I’ve seen was so dramatic that it seemed like I was watching the movie for the very first time.

For those not familiar with “My Fair Lady,” the film is based on George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion,” Set in early 20th century London, it’s a musical comedy about a lowly flower girl named Eliza Doolittle, who has a chance encounter with a linguistic professor named Henry Higgins. Professor Higgins makes a bet with a friend that he can teach Eliza to speak such perfectly proper English that he can pass her off as royalty at an embassy ball. “My Fair Lady” stars Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, and Wilfrid Hyde-White. It has some of the best acting and most entertaining musical numbers I’ve ever seen in a movie.

I always found earlier home video editions of “My Fair Lady” disappointing. Video quality always seemed grainy and colorless, and showed many of the flaws and anomalies inherent in the aging source material. The versions on Betamax and VHS videocassette were particularly bad. Later releases on DVD and Blu-ray were better, although they still showed many of the same flaws.

What was needed was a complete restoration. When the 50th Anniversary Edition was released in 2015, it was immediately evident that “My Fair Lady’s” restoration team had done things right. The new 4K scan shows astounding video quality from the very first frame! Colors are perfect, images are sharp and detailed, and film grain is natural but unobtrusive. I didn’t see any banding, crushing, dirt, speckles, or other anomalies anywhere. The lossless DTS Master Audio soundtrack completely filled my viewing space with gorgeous 5.1 surround audio.

The 50th Anniversary edition of “My Fair Lady” is a two-disc “combo-pack” that contains the 4K restoration of the film on one Blu-ray disc, and a plethora of bonus features on the other. If you’ve never seen “My Fair Lady” in true high definition/surround sound, or if you’re simply looking to upgrade to the 4K restored version, this 25th Anniversary edition is the one to get. Most highly recommended.

Presto 06857 16-inch Electric Foldaway Skillet, Black
Presto 06857 16-inch Electric Foldaway Skillet, Black
Price: $49.00
103 used & new from $41.65

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent electric skillet in every way., April 16, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
We purchased the Presto 06587 electric skillet about six months ago, and have been very satisfied with it ever since. My wife loves to prepare stews, casseroles, soups, and other dishes that require slow cooking,and this skillet does an excellent job. It's also great for making pancakes and other griddle-type meals. It heats evenly and quickly, and the non-stick surface seems almost impervious to scratches. This is an excellent product. Highly recommended.

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