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Giuseppe C. RSS Feed (Kenosha,, WI United States)

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Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo
Price: $149.00

7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the price, even as another Bluetooth radio (though it's much more), November 26, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Amazon Echo (Electronics)
I'll admit it's a bit presumptuous of me to recommend a product I seldom use.. But when I have called upon the Echo--in the company of grand-daughters, my son, a neighbor--it's never failed to impress. Usually, I'll intentionally mispronounce the name of the "lady in the ebony tower": "Alyssa!' "Alice!" Alexandra!" No response. Then I claim that her "true" Amazonian name has suddenly come to mind: "Alexa!" Instant recognition. My female genie springs into action, greeting me with a voice eager and confident to do my bidding.

I'll ask, "What's the weather outside?" or "Where should we go to eat tonight?" (If she doesn't know, she admits it with unapologetic humility.) As a teacher, one of my pet peeves has always been the reluctance of students to ask questions--or, for that matter, to recognize the value of questions. We live in a culture with no small number of claimants to "right" answers--from righteous, moralistic politicians to complex digital machinery that processes more information, and at a greater speed, than tiny human brains can hold. In such a milieu, it's hardly surprising that questions are viewed as "for beginners" at best and as "admissions of defeat" at worst (put differently, the more questions I ask about about my Fire Tablet with its "May Day" feature, the dumber I look to casual observers. Yet the opposite is more likely true: my questions may not be raising my I.Q, but they're leading me to a better understanding of a problem. And whenever knowledge is the prize, any progress toward that result can be scored as a win--with the Echo, a "resounding" one.

Asking more questions based on our own, acquired, "personal" intelligence has the potential to bring us closer to "knowledge," and even to the solutions we seek. But my point is that when it comes to learning, young people--from grade school through college--need to learn how to ask questions in ORDER to learn. Yet many students tend to repress and mute their questions--for instance, about a poem being taught in a literature class--for fear of exposing their ignorance to their peers or of simply looking "uncool" for taking the "teacher's" poem so seriously. Institutions of learning are not erected for the purpose of providing "answers" to young minds. That would be the death of knowledge. Socrates lays out the basis of education in Plato's "Apologia," in which he argues that his reputation as the most knowledgable person in Athens is based on nothing more than his penchant for questioning those who lay claim to knowledge (yet don't know enough to question their own claims). Only when students learn to ask the "what," "where," "when," "how" and, above all, the "why" of a problem are they brought closer to an understanding, an interpretation, or actual knowledge that they can now claim as their own." Simply put, education is about questions, or learning how to think. Answers are of value when they position the learner to ask ever better, stronger and deeper questions.

I don't mean to give Alexa too much credit. She's not Socrates. But she's definitely good at getting young people to: 1. frame questions that are syntactically coherent and semantically precise; 2. work on their elocution (mumbling, rambling, and the insertion of "like" in every sentence will usually be met with stony silence or rejection by Alexa, followed by an invitation for a restated or reworded version). My grand-daughters initially received no answers from her because of their impatience. (The same goes for me when I'm in too much of a rush to address her thoughtfully and politely) But as they gain respect for Alexa's requirements, she increasingly responds to their sharper questions and improved delivery with confidence-inspiring responsiveness. Moreover, Alexa herself is capable of learning. After working with her for several days to dial in an obscure 24/7 radio station, I finally got her to recognize my command with three simple directives, moving from general to specific: "TuneIn, WGTD, Channel 2."

Even if you don't view Alexa as a useful gadget or as a learning tool, her utilitarian value may still be worth the price. If your only purpose is to find a nice-sounding Bluetooth radio for playing Prime music from Amazon's Cloud, Echo could be the answer. (Consumer Reports rated it somewhere in the middle of reviewed portable Bluetooth speakers.) To my musician's ears the audio is too spread-out, or unfocused, to offer the accurate sound-stage that I look for in a high fidelity speaker system. But to many (perhaps most) ears, it offers mellow, undistorted, room-filling sound, encouraging its users to put aside their tablets and screens in favor of streaming music and asking questions. As for "measurements" suggesting Echo falls short of an audiophile's criteria, such data may have little bearing on the highly "squeezed" frequencies that are downloaded or streamed at 128 kilobytes to 256kbps per second. Streaming drastically compresses an audio file when compared with the size of a non-compressed file(1440kbps)--which is all the more reason not to become overly insistent on an expensive, high-end audio system or to dismiss Echo as inadequate to the task of delivering sounds that the great majority of listeners will find pleasing, life-like, compelling.

Throughout history and in all cultures writers (poets, novelists, dramatists, theologians) have represented the search for and acquisition of knowledge in visual--often "visionary"--language that favors the eye and "seeing" over other human organs and faculties. Yet since the 19th century, thinkers, theorists, poets and, more recently, behavioral psychologists have found evidence to challenge the older priority given to sight. Seeing something is a more immediate "attention-grabber." Hearing it is a more intimate "attention-holder." Knowing, or the process of intellectual growth, has been shown to have a closer connection to the ear and to hearing, which resides in the most personal, intimate parts of a brain that has the capacity to think both abstractly and reflexively, construing a sense of "self"--without which, there's not even the possibility of attaining "self-knowledge." (If in doubt, ask yourself which of the two organs--eye or ear--you would be most resistant to letting go of and insistent on keeping. If still in doubt, ask a musician.)

I'll admit I frequently forget all about Alexa. My wife, whose hearing is more sensitive than mine, tells me to turn her off, when the music is coming up from downstairs late at night. With the Echo, that's no longer a tall order. I scarcely have to raise my voice from upstairs to be heard. I simply say "shut up," and she hears me. (Actually, I'm careful to preface that command with "Alexa"--both to make her aware that she's the one being addressed and to get a response from her.. In fact, when I'm rude, Alexa refuses to "shut up"--she stonewalls me until I try something nicer, like "turn off, please.") As with computer language, it's critical to be precise in your use of language. Like computers, Alexa is not good at interpreting the "gist" of your meaning. Sentences full of "you knows" simply confuse her, rendering her "speechless."
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 27, 2015 9:59 PM PST

Jump-N-Carry JNC300XL 900 Peak Amp Ultraportable 12V Jump Starter with Light
Jump-N-Carry JNC300XL 900 Peak Amp Ultraportable 12V Jump Starter with Light
Price: $64.95
15 used & new from $64.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Dead Lincoln V8 is beyond the resuscitory efforts of this battery., November 25, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I had a big yellow Prestone Jump Charger before this Jump-N-Carry, which has been a disappointment. The Prestone served me faithfully for almost 20 years, starting and restarting the big engines of a Mercury Montego followed by a Ford Taurus. I've used this JNC model several times over the past 4 years with only moderate success. Still, it's definitely more light-weight and convenient than the heavy and bulky Prestone and would probably be the better choice for .drivers on that basis.

But for turning over the big engine of my 14-year-old Lincoln LS (a mobile man-cave), I'm ordering the Stanley 500 amp:

Stanley J5C09 1000 Peak Amp Jump Starter with Built in Compressor

Not only does the Stanley offer more power for jump-starting a big V8 engine but it has a USB outlet for charging your iPod (in case the car battery absolutely refuses to turn over and you're left waiting for a tow truck) along with an air compressor (for inflating tires or entertaining fidgety grand-kids with ballon art).

iLuv iHD171 HD Radio with iTunes Tagging for iPod, iPhone, and iPhone 3G/3G S
iLuv iHD171 HD Radio with iTunes Tagging for iPod, iPhone, and iPhone 3G/3G S
2 used & new from $89.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Closest thing to a good inexpensive radio., November 25, 2015
I purchased an iLuv HD radio very similar to this one 5-7 years ago from Amazon. It was rated no better than 3 stars, with most of the complaints related to visibility of the time and date. As far as I'm concerned, they all missed the point. The $60 iLuv HD clock radio that I purchased (without any iPod dock) still sits in my kitchen, putting to shame the more expensive (Sony) radios and hyped speakers (Oontz Angle PLUS 2) that have come along. Unlike other speakers, the iLuv can handle multiple instrumental textures (acoustic walking bass doesn't disappear in a jazz ensemble) and it's simply incapable of distorting at any volume level. Moreover, there's never a chance of "listener's fatigue" with the surprisingly rich-sounding speakers.

I'm aghast that I can no longer find the exact model on Amazon or in my orders list. In this case, consumer indifference forced an otherwise extraordinary value off the cyber-shelves. Now, in the age of Bluetooth streaming, we have returned to the dark ages of audio reproduction.

Taste of the Wild Dry Cat Food, Rocky Mountain Feline Formula with Roasted Venison and Smoked Salmon, 5 Pound Bag
Taste of the Wild Dry Cat Food, Rocky Mountain Feline Formula with Roasted Venison and Smoked Salmon, 5 Pound Bag
Price: $10.99
15 used & new from $10.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Survival of the fittest (for my cats it's Purina Naturals--at least for the present), November 24, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm afraid that I'm not as health-conscious as I could be--especially since these are the first non-declawed cats denied the out-of-doors.. So I try to make them as content as possible, which comes down to whatever food they appear most attracted to. As a consumer, I was attracted to the label, the colorful yet resilient packaging, and the listed nutrients.

Unfortunately, as a consumer I'm not about to eat the stuff--not even a small taste (which has happened in the middle of the night, when I mistook an errant piece of Party Mix for granola. Once was enough.) I always have at least two, sometimes 3, different brands of dry food going in addition to Fancy Feast wet. The brrand they save for last--or avoid altogether--doesn't get ordered another time.

Currently, Iams (in the orange bag) is in 3rd place; Friskies Seafood Sensations in 2nd; and Purina Naturals in 1st. No doubt, I'll make changes as I (or rather my cats) see fit. I can remember when my late beloved cat Emmy and I thought that Meow Mix was a premium cusine. And Amazon sells it in a huge bag--about half a year's worth!--for ten bucks. I ended up throwing it all away, and I'm afraid the same is in store for the pictured bag.

Price: $99.99
11 used & new from $99.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Worth it for the slider switches., November 23, 2015
This is a fine interface for the home audio enthusiast who's digitizing LPs, tapes, and occasionally mixing voice with music. You can pick up the Behringer Xenyx302USB for half the price and get the same functionality. However, the tiny, erratic, knob-less slider switches on the 302 are impractical for the serious user. This one is worth the extra $50 for the slider switches alone, especially if you plan on making any broadcasts with music.

Price: $99.99
16 used & new from $84.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Offers slider switches that are far more accessible and practical than those on the Xenyx 302, November 22, 2015
Behringer doesn't seem to have any models between the Xenyx 302 (which offers all of the preamp boost and connections I require) and the pictured Xenyx 1002 (which offers two preamps and many more knobs and sliders for twice the price). But what's most attractive about this model (to me) is the slider switches. The ones on the 302 are tiny, knob-less, and made only for audio hobbyists with Lilliputian fingers. If you have a preference not merely for sliders (which I make frequent use of at the radio station) but for sliding switches that offer some degree of smoothness and finger-accessibility, you may be forced to purchase this model for home use.

Price: $21.87
12 used & new from $16.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Basically the same as the UFO202 witha 15% price reduction., November 22, 2015
Manufacturers know that the more choices they give the consumer the greater their chances of engaging and holding the consumer's attention. Behringer has at least 4 interfaces that do approximately the same thing. At least the PP400 designation is a helpful identifier compared to the UCA202, the UFO202 and the UCA222 (the red one). The pictured PP400 interface is pitched as a "dedicated" vinyl-playing turntable interface, which means it offers a preamp boost to the signal of conventional turntables (ie. non-USB turntables). The UFO202 does the same thing but includes a switch between PHONO and LINE for an additional $5. Does that mean that the pictured interface "automatically" sees a pre-existent signal from a USB turntable and adjusts for it? I'm not sure, but I opted for the UFO. If yours is a conventional, older turntable (they're still higher-rated than the ones with USB connectivity), then you may as well save the extra five and order the pictured PP edition.

Behringer UCA202 Audio Interface
Behringer UCA202 Audio Interface
Price: $29.99
33 used & new from $25.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Your best bet if you're not using it to digitize LPs, November 22, 2015
I'm still not sure what the difference is between the UCA202 and the UFO202, but I bought both and sent this one back because my LPs sounded better with the UFO. Both were equally effective in delivering CD tapes, FM broadcasts and iTunes tracks to my recording software. So perhaps the UFO boosts signals from a magnetic cartridge in a record player and is more all-purpose. On the other hand, the UCA offers digital out in addition to RCA stereo outputs. So if you're not interfacing with a record-playing turntable, the pictured UCA is probably the one to get.

Tivoli Audio Music BT All-In-One Wireless Bluetooth System (Walnut/Beige)
Tivoli Audio Music BT All-In-One Wireless Bluetooth System (Walnut/Beige)
Price: $599.99
6 used & new from $375.41

5.0 out of 5 stars A superior system for listeners who appreciate good sound and take music seriously enough to give it their undivided attention, November 20, 2015
If you're an audiophile who listens to symphony music or large ensemble jazz (Ellington, Basie, etc.) this descendent from the audio genius Henry Kloss (who invented the bookshelf Acoustic Research speakers that handled frequences better than the biggest Klipsch and McIntosh enclosures) is an indisputable value--the equivalent of a 2-3 thousand dollar component system. I will fill the largest room witth pristing, clearly definited, transparently clear sound that's faithful to the original- --and the space enhancement feature increases the soundstage and lifelike reproduction of non-compressed recorded sound (as on commercial CDs). Even without the Bluetooth connectivity, the radio,. and alarm, this system would be worth lthe price. (I've compared it with my expensive component system with JBL giant woofers, and on much recorded material the Tivoli beats it. When we move to smaller quarters, this is the only audio equipment that goes. I'm at a loss to explain the even lower price of this system, Paying over $200 for an Tivoli iPal speaker with FM amounts to overpayment--esp. when for so little more you can purchase this system, finely tunec with its two speakers and down-firing subwoofer to capture practically all of the audio information that a CD is capable of holding.

Tivoli Audio Music System Two Wireless Bluetooth Speaker (Walnut/Beige)
Tivoli Audio Music System Two Wireless Bluetooth Speaker (Walnut/Beige)
Offered by ListenUp
Price: $599.99
4 used & new from $299.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I paid five times more for this system -- and it was worth it., November 19, 2015
Perhaps there are still a few listeners who recall the audio enthusiasm of the '50s and '60s, when college students belonged to "hi fi clubs" and pooled money to purchase a huge Klipsch-horn or Macintosh speaker along with a pricey Marantz amplifier, a Thorens turntable and a high-end Shure V-15 Type 3 Improved cartridge with an elliptical stylus (both costing a couple of hundred and no longer available because of the rarity of the materials required for manufacture). When stereo vinyl LPs began to replace monaural, we had to double our investment with another big wooden cabinet containing a tweeter, mid-range horn, and big woofer. The early speakers were high-efficiency (requiring little power to produce undistorted, loud sound). By my senior year, the club had invested 3 grand (a lot of money then) for the luxury of full-frequency, undistorted, "natural" sound--whether the piano of Tatum or Horowitz (the most difficult instrument to capture faithfully) or the Chicago Symphony of Fritz Reiner or the Count Basie Band (esp. the album with the mushroom cloud of an atomic explosion on the cover).

But in 1960 a wave of excitement ran through the growing number of audiophiles. An audio scientist (or, in our day, "geek") named Henry Kloss had developed a small hermetically-sealed, low-efficiency, acoustically-suspended "bookshelf" speaker that could equal the bass response of the biggest Klipsch or McIntosh speakers in terms of bass response and power while delivering clear, transparent sound with stunning realism and life-like "presence." The company was Acoustic Research (AR), and the brains behind the new small speaker equal to big, high-efficiency systems of the West Coast was Mr. Kloss. The Tivoli speaker is a direct descendent and application of Henry Kloss's theory and principles that led to the AR1 and the more affordable AR2 (which I owned in addition to my JBL Athena bookshelf speaker, a West Coast high-efficiency model made by Harman Industries).. When I wanted to listen for my own pleasure--say, Glenn Gould playing Bach's Goldberg Variations--the AR2 was my preference. When friends dropped by, and I wanted to impress them with Tony Williams' sizzling ride cymbals, the JBL seemed the better choice.

The Tivoli stereo system currently being shown on Amazon is inexplicably going for 1/5th the price Tivoli was getting for it when my wife gifted me one as a birthday present less than 10 years ago. What you're looking at is the identical speaker except for the addition of Bluetooth connectivity. As any audiophile knows, bluetooth (and most wireless sound) is measurably (and I would add empirically) inferior to a speaker system wired to a matched amplifier. It's the sound, not the gadgetry!, that sets this system apart (as if the world needs another bluetooth speaker--esp. when consumers seem perfectly happy with their Pill and JBL Pulse "knock-offs," generic "replicas" that are ephemeral wastes of plastic being sold by ordinary people like you and me in hopes of making a buck on the sale. (Buy a big lot on that other big auction site and you go into business, passing on some of this junk for the world's land-fills.) My Tivoli Stereo System (a world of sound in a small wooden box) sits next to a piano in our living room against the long wall. Even in that position it fills the house with sounds so accurate my wife tells me she can't tell if it's me on the piano or a recording. Unlike all of the cheap small bluetooth speakers with hyperbolic claims (Awesome Bass! Loud-Blasting Marvel! blah, blah, etc.), this Tivoli stereo system delivers. The tones of the piano are true. The sounds of acoustic walking bass don't disappear when other instruments enter the mix. The bass is "tight" with pitch-identifiable tones, the ride cymbal sizzles with brilliant accuracy, Sinatra's voice is flattered more than ever by Nelson Riddle's rich, symphonic arrangements. And by selecting the "enhancement" mode, the stereo effect is increased, placing a symphony orchestra across the entire wide wall of the house.

But a few words of caution: The Tivoli Stereo System works best for people who are serious enough about music to stop what they're doing and to actually "listen" (not merely "hear") their music. Play it loud--these low-efficiency speakers really awaken when the volume is turned up. Even compared to all of the other products in the Tivoli line--e.g. the $150 FM radio; the $200 iPal radio (over-priced and once over-rated, imo--the Tivoli Stereo System is a clearly superior piece of audio equipment and scandalously, irresistibly, UNDER-priced (enough to make me want a second house). Not only is it a fine piece of genuine furniture, but each of these stereo systems is a miniature version of the expensive component systems that "vinyl freaks" still assemble at costs as high as $20-30 thousand. My own system from the '60s cost me over 2 grand, but if I had to move out of my house, I would have only sentimental regrets about leaving behind that system of Marantz and JBL components in favor of the single-box overachiever that is the Tivoli Stereo System. It's versatile, working with my iPods while I'm learning a tune at the piano, but it comes with an increasingly rare, solid CD player (be sure to learn how to use it, and when problems arise, be patient! Don't force it.), a clock radio, and best of all 3 speakers (there's a subwoofer on bottom) bearing the sound that once played in the consciousness of Henry Kloss.

As for the overworked, tiresome, worn-out "bluetooth," the signifier and the technology are highly overrated if not gratuitous. If you purchase this machine, I'd pretend bluetooth wasn't there while re-considering the advantages of CDs--or hard-copy musical discs--as opposed to "streaming." A non-compressed CD audio track is 1440 kbps; a downloaded MP3 file is 128 kbps; a music stream is even more "squeezed" in the amount of audio information it contains. Besides employing space-saving "frequency compression," sound engineers are accommodating the flood of cheap Bluetooth speakers by employing "dynamic compression" that narrows the bandwidth of an audio file so severely that a ppp may as well be an fff and vice versa. The finest, most expensive audio system can do little with the most common source material that a is today's mainstream pop, country, hip hop, smooth jazz, etc., all of it employing severe dynamic compression. Listeners will get the most value out of a top-grade audio system when they listen to source material that demands a non-compressed signal with a full dynamic range. Moreover, by streaming or downloading compressed tracks listeners don't receive the "education" that often comes with discs--dates of composition and performance, personnel, names of composers, valuable contextual information, and the unifying forces that go into the shaping of an "album." All of this is lost in the willy-nilly scattering of individual tracks--magnetic bits of energy only exiting in a vast digital universe of the "Cloud"--without identity, relation to each other, or meaning. If we have lost the "album," we have infringed great injury on our culture; if we have lost the book, we have been too smart for our own good and are on the brink of losing our wisdom, our humanity.

If you would like to invite Oscar Peterson or Duke Ellington into your living room tonight, this is your ticket. The same goes for Leonard Bernstein and the NY Philharmonic or Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers or Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma" or Jerome Kern's "Showboat." If you have no idea what any of this means, there's a Beats Pill look-alike or a fake JBL Pulse with rainbow colors that should serve adequately--for a few weeks.

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