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Uni Jetstream Alpha-Gel Grip, Silver, 0.7mm Black Ink (SXN1000071P26)
Uni Jetstream Alpha-Gel Grip, Silver, 0.7mm Black Ink (SXN1000071P26)
Price: $13.04
70 used & new from $8.34

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Grip and Flow, but Smudgy, May 24, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I was very excited to try this pen, considering the glowing reviews on Amazon and on bloggers' web sites (there are people that blog and review pens, love it). Unfortunately I got a little disappointed.

As soon as I received this pen, I tested this $15 Jestsatream along with a cheap $5 Parker Jotter Retractable Ballpoint Pen, Medium, Stainless Steel with barrel, Colors May Vary (78033) pen and with a $1 Paper Mate Profile Retractable Ballpoint Pens, Black, Box of 12 (89465) All of them are ballpoint pens. I also tested a disposable fountain pen, 3 each Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens, Black Ink 90010 that I use mostly at the office.

1. Jetstream:its chubby silicone grip makes it a pleasure to hold. Wish the soft grip would extend a bit more toward the tip
2. Papermate: not as chubby or soft as the Jetstream, but nice to hold
3. Pilot fountain pen: hard plastic, but reasonably thick
4. Parker: too thin and slippery. Works, but not very comfortable to hold.

Ink flow;
1. Jetstream: by far the best. This pen glides on paper like a hovercraft
2. Papermate: if I hadn't tried the Jetstream, I would have said you could not beat the way the ink of this pen
3. Parker: more friction, but not in an unpleasant way. Not scratchy, just slower than the other two
4. Pilot fountain pen: works and flows nicely; nothing wrong with it, but makes a scratchy sound

Even ink distribution:
1. Parker: impeccable performance. Very even distribution, the best by far, and ink dries on paper instantly
2. Jetstream: a bit disappointed here, as rave reviews praise its quick drying time and perfect ink distribution. Not my experience; some letters are blotchy and take one or two seconds to dry. Most are fine, though.
3. Papermate: takes the longest to dry among the ballpoint pens. Some letters are blotchy, plus the ink is thicker (1.4 vs Jetstream 0.7 and Parker 1); when I run my finger over them three or four seconds later, they still smudge
4. Pilot fountain pen: smudgy

I like this Jetstream, but I don't think I would splurge for this premier version unless I wrote novels longhand and needed the chubby grip. Most people should probably stick with the regular $3 version uni-ball Jetstream RT Fine Point Retractable Roller Ball Pens, 3 Black Ink Pens (70877), or with the other pens.

I ended up using the Parker for its impeccable ink flow performance and complete lack of smudginess. I'll have to look for a more comfortable version to hold.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 1, 2014 10:27 AM PDT

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Random House Large Print)
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Random House Large Print)
by Laura Hillenbrand
Edition: Paperback
Price: $20.79
133 used & new from $1.21

5.0 out of 5 stars Just Read It, May 9, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
If this were a work of fiction, readers would say the story of the main character is so larger than life that it's too implausible. The fact that it's a true story staggers the mind.

I listened to the Audible audiobook version of the story, and the reader does an excellent job at making this well-written story come to life.

This is one of those books that you want in your reading bucket list, then pass it along to your teenage children to teach them what really matters about life, and love, and resilience, and forgiveness.

Sometimes a book comes out that captures the richness and intricacies of life in a way that just makes you sit back and say "wow, I didn't know that was even possible."

Inspiring and overwhelmingly emotional.

Read it.

Fujifilm X-E1 16.3 MP Compact System Digital Camera with 2.8-Inch LCD and 18-55mm Lens (Black)
Fujifilm X-E1 16.3 MP Compact System Digital Camera with 2.8-Inch LCD and 18-55mm Lens (Black)
10 used & new from $600.00

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not perfect, January 6, 2014
- Excellent skin tone rendition
- Excellent meter
- Great feel
- Lightweight
- Great kit lens

- Low flash sync speed (1/180). Should be 1/500 or better
- Mediocre fill flash performance (not as good as Nikon)
- Flash changes skin tone rendition
- No built-in ND filter
- No pitch tilt indication on screen
- AF speed just ok (improved with every firmware upgrade)

Wish list for X-E3:
- Faster flash sync speed (at least 1/500)
- Nikon-grade fill flash performance
- Smart flash (like iPhone 5s, which automatically adapts to different lighting conditions)
- Real Velvia 50 look
- 16-55 f2.8 kit lens

Suing The Devil [HD]
Suing The Devil [HD]
Price: $3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing to Write Home About, July 21, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
A friend told me this movie is creating a stir in the Christian community; some say it's the best Christian movie ever made. If that is true, Christians have problems. The movie is shallow, presents Satan as a caricature, and speaks volumes on the low spiritual state of today's evangelical culture.

If you want to watch great Christian movies, forget the ones made by shallow Evangelicals. Watch movies about (real) Christians, like The Blind Side, The Hiding Place, or Amazing Grace.

The Paper Bag Princess (Classic Munsch)
The Paper Bag Princess (Classic Munsch)
Price: $1.89

0 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars what?, June 15, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
My 7-year old daughter wasn't impressed. Neither was I. Who wrote this, a feminist? Short, inconsequential, boring. Bring on the classics.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 6, 2013 3:56 PM PDT

Nikon D7000 DSLR (Body Only)
Nikon D7000 DSLR (Body Only)
Price: $493.70
106 used & new from $399.77

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Camera. One Caveat (and Fix) for People Pictures., December 10, 2012
Love this camera. If you are an enthusiast, this camera is a worthy upgrade from a D3100 or D5100; lots of buttons and dials for quick changes, two custom modes, tight and quiet shutter, viewfinder grid and virtual horizon, built-in flash commander mode, dual card slots, bright 100% viewfinder, and more. Love it. Love Nikon ergonomics.

Only one problem that almost made me return it: skin tones were terrible, especially compared to the king of skin tones, my trusty Fuji S5 Pro. With the same lens (the Nikon 17-55), I took some raw and jpeg pictures (raw ones processed in Lightroom 4 and Dxo 7.5) and compared them to the raw and jpeg ones from the Fuji. The D7000 jpeg were shot in the Portrait and Standard picture modes. The Standard mode was downright wrong: too contrasty and saturated (I used it for a couple of shots, just to test it since it's the default one). The Portrait mode was also bad: skin tones were a horrid combination of green, orange, and yellow. No pink. This is where I almost returned the camera.

Yet, I couldn't do it. I loved everything else about it. Did some online research and found out others were complaining about the same issue. One photographer recommended customizing the Neutral picture mode by shifting Hue to -1. That was good advice.

After much testing with wife and children as test subjects, I came up with a custom picture mode that gives me skin tones that I like (don't tell anyone, but I might like them even better than the Fuji ones, well, almost. My non-photographer wife still likes the Fuji colors better).

First, I use an ExpoImaging ExpoDisc 77mm Digital White Balance Filter - Neutral to get the perfect white balance for my jpegs (I also tried the Expodisc Portrait, but it's too warm for my taste). I know I could shoot raw and not have to worry about white balance for every shot, and I do shoot raw for income shots, but for family and friends shots, I shoot jpeg, and the Expodisc helps me nail the white balance every time (and it's really quick to set up on Nikon DSLRs). The Expodisc is expensive, but I'm a price maven and like to get my stuff used at a discount :-). You may also play with a cheaper alternative (ColorRight) or use auto white balance; the D7000 gets the white balance right most of the time, especially outdoor.

Okay, so here it is.

Custom Neutral picture mode (saved as Neutral1 because I have lots of imagination):
:: +5 sharpening (D7000 is soft by default). This can be changed to +4 or +6 depending on taste;
:: +1 saturation (D7000 skin tones are on the pale side by default);
:: -1 hue
:: -1 contrast
:: ADL auto (some recommend switching ADL off, but I didn't notice any color shift in skin tones with ADL off)
:: EV (exposure compensation) either on 0 (indoor) or 0 to -3 (outdoor). D7000 tends to overexpose outdoor sometimes.

Voilà. Now I get the skin tones I like. Try it out. See if it works for you.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 10, 2014 6:43 PM PST

Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth
Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth
by Jeffrey Satinover
Edition: Paperback
Price: $23.40
101 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read Book, November 3, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The first half of the book, which deals with the medical and psychological aspects of homosexuality, as well as with the political (not scientific) pressure behind the 1973 APA decision to drop homosexuality from its DSM, is great. The second half, a quick presentation of secular and faith-based treatments, is welcome. The chapter on orthodox Judaism and homosexuality is illuminating, but the last chapter, on the pagan and gnostic roots of today's post-modern polymorphic code of ethics, is downright phenomenal, arguably deserving its own book and certainly alone worth the price of this one.

The author clearly has a lot of compassion for homosexuals, but very little patience with homosexual activists. Once you read the book, you'll understand why.

Considering the centrality of homosexuality in today's culture war, this book should be in your top-five list of books to read.

Highly recommended.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 5, 2012 11:03 AM PST

50 Philosophy Ideas You Really Need to Know (50 Ideas You Really Need to Know series)
50 Philosophy Ideas You Really Need to Know (50 Ideas You Really Need to Know series)

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but with strong atheist bias, October 23, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a good read if you want to get your feet wet in the world of Philosophy. I also recommend Sophie's World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy. The topics are presented quickly and clearly and will get you thinking.

The section on religion, however, leaves much to be desired. The author is obviously a liberal atheist with no sympathy for religious faith. This would be ok (different points of view are welcome), except when one's strong bias wrongly dismisses the arguments of the other side or, worse, is not even consistent with itself. An example is his idea #41 about the problem of evil; he argues that the existence of evil is strong proof that God does not exist or, if He exists, He's not worthy of worship and praise. Now, this is debatable, and the theist has strong philosophical arguments in support of his thesis (see the Does God Exist? 2009 debate between Craig and Hitchens, where Dr. Craig, in the second DVD presents a good intellectual argument for the compatibility of evil and a loving God, to the point where even Hitchens looked impressed).

But aside from that, the author of this book is not even consistent with his own point of view; when, in fact, he then moves on to idea #44 about positive and negative freedoms, he argues that the concept of positive freedom might encourage a tyrannical government, where a wiser leader might force less wise subjects to follow his will, thus exercising tyranny over the subjects' will. (Incidentally, that was the point presented by Hitchens in the above debate, where he describes God's government as a sort of eternal North Korea from which you cannot escape). The author even quotes the man that came up with the concepts of negative and positive freedoms, 20th century philosopher Isaiah Berlin, who wrote, "To manipulate men, to propel them towards goals which you -- the social reformer -- see, but they may not, is to deny their human essence, to treat them as objects without wills of their own, and therefore to degrade them."

But, if God exists and is the God accused by the author under idea #41, isn't that exactly what God is allowing men to do? Isn't He respecting their will (thus denying Hitchen's North Korea accusation, at least on this planet) by withholding His positive freedom and allowing them to do what they want? And if He's doing so, doesn't that at least provide a theoretical, intellectual answer to the author's own question about moral evil in idea #41? Isn't He allowing them (and the rest of the universe) to freely reach His conclusion that He's right and they're wrong, using this planet's own history as a universal schoolmaster?

This is one example of many, in the religious section of the book, where the author proceeds to trample religion far too quickly (the most objectionable idea being #43 on faith and reason).

The book is still worth reading as an introduction to philosophy, albeit with a grain of salt. As always, do your research, read the best arguments from both sides and reach an intellectually honest conclusion.

Pioneer SC-61 7.2-Channel Network Ready AV Receiver (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Pioneer SC-61 7.2-Channel Network Ready AV Receiver (Discontinued by Manufacturer)

94 of 101 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pioneer vs Onkyo vs Denon, August 13, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
In the past year I've owned a Denon 2311CI, an Onkyo TX-NR809 and this Pioneer SC-61. Here are some comparisons.

Sound quality
1. Pioneer
2. Denon
3. Onkyo

The SC-61 sounds smooth and non fatiguing. It pairs really well with my Polk LSI system. The Denon sounded smooth as well, while the Onkyo was a little bright.

1. Pioneer
2. Onkyo
3. Denon

The Pioneer is loud. Even though it has 125 W per channel vs the 135 W of the Onkyo, its class D3 amplification must be way more efficient because this receiver at -15 db sounds as loud as the Onkyo at reference (0 db), and way louder than the Denon.

Video quality
1. Pioneer and Onkyo
3. Denon

They all look good, but the Pioneer and Onkyo look better than the Denon.

1. Onkyo
2. Denon
3. Pioneer

The learning Onkyo remote is a pleasure to use with nice, soft buttons and four macro buttons on top. The Denon remote was good too. the Pioneer one stinks: small buttons, no macros, small text. You need to buy a universal remote for this guy. I know I will. Amazon has one for $19 or so with great reviews. URC WR7 Universal Remote Control for up to 7 A/V Components with 4 Favorite Channel Buttons

1. Onkyo
2. Pioneer
3. Denon

The Onkyo had by far the best GUI. The Denon I had was a 2011 model, not sure if the 2012 Denons have a better GUI. The Pioneer GUI is pretty bad, looks like it was designed by the DOS people. It doesn't even overlay on your screen. And volume levens don't show on the screen OSD, not sure if it's me or just something this receiver can't do.

1. Pioneer
2. Denon
3 Onkyo

The Onkyo does not offer Airplay. If you have Apple iTunes and the Apple Remote app for iOS devices, you can send your iTunes music to the Pioneer receiver and even control the volume through the remote app or the iTunes volume slider on your computer. Pretty cool. The Onkyo does not have this.

If you have a DLNA media server, all receivers will connect to it. You need a PC for this. If you have a Mac, you'll need a program like iSedora ($25 or so). My Onkyo and Pioneer receiver were both able to see my Mac as a DLNA server through iSedora, but neither one has a very usable GUI when accessing DLNA content. Skip. Airplay is 100 times better.

1. Pioneer
2. Denon
3. Onkyo

This is subjective, but I like the Pioneer and Denon looks better than Onkyo. The Pioneer has pretty amber and blue lights too.

Unit Display usefulness
1. Denon
2. Pioneer
3. Onkyo

The Denon is great because its display visually shows BOTH input and output formats.

Learning how to use the receiver
1. Onkyo
2. Denon
3. Pioneer

The Pio is more convoluted. I usually don't need to read manuals to configure receivers. I had to with the Pio.

MCACC vs Audissey
I prefer MCACC. Audissey MIGHT be better if you have a subwoofer (MCACC will not touch your sub at all, you need an external tool for that), but, first, I hate subwoofers and don't have one in my setup, second, the Audissey calibration is too flat and boring. MCACC does a much better job, with a more lively sound, and it SHOWS what it does after it's done calibrating your system. You can review the calibration data and see decibel changes to each speaker, charts, and EQ parameters. You don't get that with Audissey.

Pioneer will NOT honor its warranty if you purchase any of its ELITE receivers online. If you do so, make sure you either get a warranty from the seller or from Square Trade.

Overall I prefer the Pioneer. I'm willing to live with its idiosyncrasies because I like how it sounds and how loud it goes without distortion. They've managed to make their class D3 amplification very, very musical.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 12, 2013 7:04 AM PDT

Apple TV MD199LL/A (Current Version)
Apple TV MD199LL/A (Current Version)
Price: $91.99
140 used & new from $67.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for everybody but audiophiles, July 24, 2012
Great product. We use it for everything: movies, music, radio, podcasts, family picture screensaver. The only problem is for audiophiles; if you have your CDs ripped at 16bit/44.1KHz, the AppleTV 2nd and 3rd generation will up-convert your music to 48KHz, whereas the first generation Apple TV would keep the 44.1KHz rate.

This problem will not bother most users in the least, but it's worth mentioning if you are an audiophile and are thinking of streaming your lossless files to the Apple TV.

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