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Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power
Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power
by Rachel Maddow
Edition: Hardcover
390 used & new from $0.01

145 of 176 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberals, true Conservatives, & Libertarians should all like this book, March 28, 2012
As a Democrat, while watching the Republican debates I never expected to feel like standing up and cheering about anything they said, but that's how I felt when Ron Paul spoke about foreign policy and wars (his views on economic matters are flawed, but on foreign policy he has some good thoughts). Democrats can agree with Libertarians on the cautions as to war which Rachel expresses in this excellent book. And yes ... even conservatives should like this. TRUE conservatives (not the Neo-Cons). This country HAS drifted from thoughtful discussions before entering into war. We had already headed too far that way before 9/11, but 9/11 gave huge impetus for further drift -- too much fear about being blamed if another attack happened led Presidents to be overly warlike and Congress to be sheep, in going along with War pushes. One gets the feeling that too many members of Congress do not have an educated perspective about the proper, strong role of Congress in War policy. Every politician and voter in America should read this book and get a better perspective, a better sense of history, and work to reassert the proper caution.


Sony BDP-S580 Blu-ray Disc Player (Black)
Sony BDP-S580 Blu-ray Disc Player (Black)
Offered by LWOUTLET
Price: $189.97
11 used & new from $70.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lack of optical digital is a drawback, March 2, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This player plays well, has lots of great internet options, and is easy to connect wirelessly to the internet (I was watching Netflix within half an hour of plugging it in), but I was unhappy for reasons that may not affect most users. So I thought I'd post this review since I see no discussion in other reviews of these things.

The problem for me is lack of optical digital output for audio. It has coaxial digital output, but it turns out, for reasons too involved to explain here, that doesn't work for my system setup and the things I want to use this for. Seems to me like if they are going to choose between omitting digital optical or coaxial, it should be the less-popular coaxial they'd omit. But why the step down from previous, even lower-level, Sony models, which for years have included both digital optical and coaxial with no problem at all? Strange, and it cost me time and expense.

Additionally, I am unhappy with the slideshow feature. I am a photographer and like to view slideshows of photos. The slideshow has no random or shuffle play option. Also, as it changes from one photo to another, there is a small whirling icon that pops up in the upper right corner, to indicate that a new file is being loaded. This is very annoying and unnecessary, and there is now way to turn this thing off.

A few good things no one has discussed: it can play WAV files from the USB stick, which is pretty new and neat. Plus, you can play music from the USB stick while playing photos from that same stick, though it is a little clutzy as to setting that up.

I would give this 3 stars. It plays well, but the lack of optical digital output is a significant drawback for me.


OPPO BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player with SACD, DVD-Audio, and VRS Technology (2009 Model)
OPPO BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player with SACD, DVD-Audio, and VRS Technology (2009 Model)
4 used & new from $275.29

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to find anything bad about this, July 5, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've used my Oppo for a few days now and am very happy with this purchase. I thought I'd post a few of the pros and cons. This isn't an exhaustive list, of course -- just some of the things that jump out at me right off the bat, which could be useful to some, since SOME of these things aren't much discussed elsewhere, as they may be too minor. Others of these are much discussed:

Pros:

SACD is an amazing format and this unit does SACD extremely well. I recommend the RCA "Living Stereo" series. They are still cheap, and very well mastered into SACD format (they are all 3 or sometimes 2 - channel, but sound spectacular in SACD. For 5.1 experience, so you can really see what this baby can do! -- I recommend Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon" SACD.)

Upscaling of DVDs is exceptional. The good things everyone's been saying about this is true.

FFing at double or higher speed is smooth and the subtitles still show. So you can get through slow or boring things quickly, without missing anything.

It remembers where you left off on the last 5 items played, whether DVD, CD, SACD, etc.

It starts up very fast. Put in a DVD you'd stopped midpoint earlier, and you are back to where you left off in about 10 seconds. Blu-Rays load amazingly fast compared to what I am used to.

The time display on the unit is large, so you can read it from 10 feet away without problem, if you have decent vision.

It includes for the time displays how much time is in and remains in the chapter (as well as the title). My previous player (a Sony) did not display chapter times. In fact, it didn't even display the current chapter number -- very weird.

It has a quick, easy "go to" function. This is good, since one of the cons, below, is a poor rewind function.

I like the convenience of the "resolution" button on the remote. If you want something in 4:3 instead of widescreen, just use the remote button and it can change it instantly, without stopping play. (On my old Sony, I had to stop play, go into the menu, and do some work to get resolution fixed - and had to do it all the time.)

Two USB ports, including one IN THE FRONT!! Now I can routinely play items on a USB memory stick -- which is a huge deal!! -- and opens up big new ways of listening to non-audiophile recordings through the home theater. Especially since you can fit up to 32 GB (or is it 64 now?) onto one of those sticks. And the onscreen display you get of the data on the disc is well designed and easy to use.

Cons (I'm hard-pressed to find much of anything, except a couple of piddling little things):

Rev'ing is not smooth and is very slow. The max is by 10 second increments. And you can't quickly increase each increment. You have to wait one or two seconds between pressings. The increments are something like: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 seconds. I find I use the "go to" function a lot when I want to go back.

The remote is weak and sometimes takes multiple pressings to get it to act. I put this into a universal remote, and now will rarely use the Oppo remote anyway, so this is no big deal for me.

But these are very very minor and certainly not deal breakers for me.


LG Electronics 8X External Blu-ray ReWrite Drive BE08LU20 BLACK/RETAIL (Black)
LG Electronics 8X External Blu-ray ReWrite Drive BE08LU20 BLACK/RETAIL (Black)
2 used & new from $375.00

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very high quality, reliable BD burner., January 6, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Bought this external drive a month ago, since I wanted to keep my current internal DVD drive. This LG BE08LU20 has worked flawlessly and produced perfect BD discs. I've burned and erased about 10 times with BD-RE discs and have burned 3 BD-R discs. Each one turned out perfectly - no coasters.

I've used quality blank discs - Verbatim BD-R and BD-RE. I can't speak for other brands, but reviews I've read indicate Verbatim has fewer problems.

The USB connect is great if you have no ESATA external outlet. But it's much slower than using ESATA. USB burns at 480 mb/s. ESATA burns at 1.5 gb/s -- around 3 times faster. Significantly, LG includes an external ESATA bracket, with a cable, so you can easily create an external ESATA outlet (assuming your computer has an open ESATA connect on the motherboard and an available slot in the back). The bracket is the typical large size, so if you have a smaller computer, like the Dell Inspiron, you'll need to order a "low profile" ESATA bracket.

It's a beautiful device and looks good, sitting next to your computer. It's easily set up. I had it up and running in about 5 minutes, and it's worked perfectly, from the beginning.
Comment Comments (15) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 7, 2010 4:34 PM PDT


Canon VIXIA HF20 HD Dual Flash Memory w/32GB Internal Memory & 15x Optical Zoom - 2009 MODEL
Canon VIXIA HF20 HD Dual Flash Memory w/32GB Internal Memory & 15x Optical Zoom - 2009 MODEL
8 used & new from $259.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent camera -- PQ and Zoom are exceptional, December 6, 2009
This review is based on the Vixia HF21, not the HF20. Amazon does not yet list the HF21, but the two are similar enough that this review applies to both. The biggest difference is that the HF21 has a 64GB hard drive (and so costs about $100 more), compared to the 32GB of the HF20.

I bought my HF21 at Best Buy about a week ago when it was on sale for $799, and have been extremely happy with it. I am just knocked out by the picture quality. A lot depends on the lighting conditions, but when you get that just right (and you learn quickly how to perfect that) the films are stunning. To take full advantage, be sure to film in the MXP mode (24 mbps) - the highest quality option. When playing back on your TV, use either the component cable (provided) or the HDMI cable (not provided). Do not use the red-white-yellow, standard video cable (also provided) if you want HD quality. I tried viewing the same videos with both that and then with the component cable, and the difference is like that between average and stunning. I haven't tried the HDMI yet. I also haven't yet tried videos filmed in the lower quality levels than MXP (it has 5 levels).

I've only taken a few photos, and they were in poor lighting conditions, so I can't comment on the photo abilities, other than it's clearly better than the several lower price models I've had experience with.

The zoom is exceptional. It has 15x optical zoom. But the digital zoom is surprisingly good. In fact I compared this to one of the Sony Handycams with 60x optical zoom, and the DIGITAL zoom on this at better than 60x is better than the Sony's OPTICAL zoom at 60x. And the image stabilizer of this camera is amazingly better than the Sony. Holding in one's hands (no tripod) one can actually take relatively stable pictures at 60x or more, especially if you practice at it. So don't be put off by the mere 15x optical zoom. The digital zoom is fantastic.

The controls seem kind of confusing at first, but, like with anything, as you use it more you adjust and get used to it. Now I find them all convenient and useful. There are so many options available for improving PQ through different settings for different conditions, including manual focus, that it will take an amateur like me much time to perfect this, but I'm finding that just using the "automatic" settings provides drop-dead magnificent enough films that I haven't had much need to do much tinkering.

As to the software that comes with it, the best I can say is for some purposes it's adequate, but not for others. You can load your movies and pics onto your computer and watch them without much difficulty. You can easily load the HD movies onto YouTube. Burning them to CD for home use is where I'm running into problems. You can't burn these as is onto DVD. You need a Blu-Ray burner and need a Blu-Ray disc to burn onto. Otherwise you have to convert these films to a conventional format, and you can't convert them with this software. The one conversion I have made is when I loaded something to YouTube, then converted it to MP4 format using YouTube. There are software programs out there that you can get to do these conversions. I'm about to get a new computer with a Blu-Ray burner, so I'm holding off until I get that.

You can do some editing with the software. I've edited where I want some films to start and stop, and added music, and saved that to a file. I believe you can also combine several clips into one. Also you can create captions. But the software seems kind of slow and not really very well designed.

All in all I am greatly impressed with this camera and am excited about perfecting my skills, making some good films, and getting a computer with a Blu-Ray burner.


Complete National Geographic: Every Issue Since 1888
Complete National Geographic: Every Issue Since 1888
35 used & new from $5.09

120 of 123 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can load to your hard drive - Here's how, October 22, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I loaded mine to my hard drive and love not having to take the DVDs in and out. It took over two hours per DVD to load, but was worth it. You just have to copy them from the DVD to a very specific folder on your hard drive. The directions are in the last of these FAQs in this link to the CNG FAQ page:

[...]

(If Amazon doesn't allow this link here, check one of my responses below this review -- I'll include it there too and maybe it can stay there.)

One of the biggest negatives with this set is that the sideways pictures can't rotate, making them hard to read and enjoy. And there are many such pictures. Hopefully they will come up with an upgrade soon to fix this, as they have received many queries about this.

Although there are some negatives, overall, I am very happy with this set.

The huge plus is you get every issue of National Geographic in a relatively easily readable format when you use the easy-to-use magnifying and dragging features. If you have a 24" monitor, it's pretty readable as is. With magnified reading, when you go to the next page, it resets back to zero magnification, and you have to re-magnify it. But it's fairly easy -- all you have to do is double click on the page, and it magnifies, and you can drag the text and pictures around as needed.

They even include all of the advertisements, which they could have easily decided to omit. (It's fun to look at the ads from long ago. For example, in the April 1916 issue, focusing on the national parks, there's an ad for newly established Cascade National Park, placed by Great Northern Railroad, reminiscent of the days when railroads affiliated themselves with different parks, to boost travel.)

It prints out beautifully, and there is no readability problem with printouts.

There is a handy readlist feature, where you can create your own readlists (very easily done) or look at readlists that the editors have prepared. There are approximately 33 of these already created readlists, covering such things as various editors' favorites, National Parks, The Universe, The Untamed, etc. Just scanning through these articles, it looks like these lists are pretty good and I see a lot of things I want to read.

One problem with these readlists is that they don't give the date of the article. You see something focusing on, say India, and you have no idea if it is from 1915 or 2005. That makes a big difference to me insofar as my interest. They should include the date of the issue in these readlists. When I create my own lists I plan on always including the date.

All in all, I am happy with this set, and would buy again, since it seems to be the best way to get all of national Geographic, short of buying all of the actual magazines for thousands of dollars.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 25, 2010 2:22 PM PST


The Beatles (The Original Studio Recordings)
The Beatles (The Original Studio Recordings)
Price: $196.93
77 used & new from $144.99

362 of 384 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, The Sound Quality The Beatles Deserve!!, September 8, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I was disappointed with the 1987 CDs, so I put my Mobile Fidelity albums (state of the art record albums back then, from the master tapes) onto CD around 1992 and have been listening to those since. I long since sold my 1987 CDs. Now I can get rid of those Mobile Fidelity CDs because the sound quality of these remastered CDs exceeds even them.

For those 1987 CDs the first four albums were in mono. I can sort of understand that for the first two, with their distinct, wide 2-track separation. But the second two had four-track and sounded great in stereo. At any rate, I preferred all four in stereo. So went to extreme measures to get it, in quality. Now those are all here in glorious stereo in this set.

I was afraid that they would narrow the separation on the first two albums. Fortunately they did not. If you want to listen to those two with headphones, you may be disappointed with the sound -- get the mono, but listening to them through speakers, several feet away, the stereo adds an outstanding dimension to the sound.

Throughout this set, the bass is more evident, the drums are sharper - the quality just jumps out at you throughout -- a testament to the much more sophisticated digitization techniques they have today than in 1987. A job well done!!
Comment Comments (22) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 6, 2011 5:19 PM PST


Outliers: The Story of Success
Outliers: The Story of Success
by Malcolm Gladwell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.59
673 used & new from $0.55

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gives too little credit to the role of genes, April 26, 2009
"Talent is the desire to practice", Gladwell states. And, in reference to the Beatles, he says that their talent "consisted of their ability to see Hamburg, Germany as an opportunity". In Hamburg they had to play 8-hour sets 7 days a week.

I agree that a desire to practice and excel are important factors in success, but a genetic predisposition to the particular skill is also important, and Gladwell seems to minimize the role of genetics.

For example, I could never have become a great classical guitar player no matter how long and hard I practiced. I've tried playing musical instruments and it is not my thing. Most people could never become good brain surgeons or writers of novels or poetry.

More and more, scientists are learning that genes have a greater role in who we are than was believed in the past. It is important for people to learn what, if anything, they are particularly good at, and focus on that. But, in addition to that predisposition, they also need a predisposition, or at least a capability, to work hard at that particular thing. And I believe that that predisposition to work hard at and excel at something is also genetic.

The things he emphasizes such as culture, attitude, and opportunity are important too, and genetics alone would never make someone excel. So he is right in that regard, IMO. But these are secondary to genetic predispostion.

It could be though that there are some activities where extensive practice can lead to world-class excelling. Maybe mundane things like gardening, or housepainting, etc. But for the higher level activities (e.g., brain surgery, classical piano, writng books or poetry, nuclear physics, etc.), to become WORLD-CLASS and renowned at them, IMO takes a genetic predisposition, in addition to the hard work, culture, conducive environment and life experiences, opportunity, and a little luck.


Eagles: Farewell 1 Tour - Live From Melbourne [HD DVD]
Eagles: Farewell 1 Tour - Live From Melbourne [HD DVD]
DVD ~ Eagles
7 used & new from $1.60

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why not on Blu-Ray?, February 4, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is one of the best concerts I have seen. It is a hugely popular DVD, so I have been wondering why it is not out on Blu-Ray. The HD-DVD format is dead. My HD player is broken, out of warranty, and I don't want to spend the money on repair or to buy a new one. I also have a Blu-Ray player. I hope the companies involved are planning on releasing this on Blu-Ray at some point soon. I don't know why they wouldn't - it seems to me it would be quite profitable.


Alfred Hitchcock Presents - Season Three
Alfred Hitchcock Presents - Season Three
DVD ~ Peter Lorre
Offered by westcoastmedia
Price: $19.80
17 used & new from $14.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant surprise! (Hadn't seen the show before), January 27, 2009
I was too young to appreciate the series at the time it originally aired. I occasionally caught bits and pieces of re-runs here and there in the 60s, but never had the situation to watch it on any sort of regular basis in any serious way until now.

I started with this - Season 3, because I read that it was better than the first two, and I was hooked with the first episode. The story of the woman who falls for a puppeteer she sees on stage has one of the all-time great, dark humor surprise endings!! And that is a trademark of the each of these episodes - either a surprise or a deviously clever ending, often with a very dark or macabre humor. Some you can see coming after a certain point and others are complete surprises.

I also love the intros and outros, where Hitch himself always appears. As the consummate director who had a wide knowledge of all aspects of film-making, he came up with some rather elaborate, clever, hard-to-do sets that you could tell took some time and real expertise (and cash) to do well. He took those segments very seriously and worked hard at them, when they could have been just cheap filler.

In those intros and outros (and in the stories themselves), his jaded, wry, cynical, sarcastic humor seems a cut above the idealized, happy themes of so much TV of that era. He also had very funny self-deprecating humor about his weight and looks. And he even puts down the commercials sometimes.

Every single episode of this season is gripping and the show is addictive. I will now start on seasons 1 and 2 and cannot wait for the release of later seasons!


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