Tuesday, May 27, 2008

time out

I need to re-charge my battery. I should be back the first week in June.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Shop, eat, and explore in Kittery, Maine

If you are heading up the New England coast this summer, plan on spending at least a half a day in Kittery -- on Route 1, right at the bottom end of Maine.

There's over a mile of outlet stores, but unlike most outlet areas -- there are actually stores with stuff that will appeal to MEN: Black & Decker, Brookstone, and Seiko (best bargains are in the rear of the store). There's also candy, clothing, luggage, shoes, sunglasses, etc. plus all of the stores that wives, girlfriends and daughters want to go to.

The town has a number of excellent places to eat, including Bob's Clam Hut, Weathervane and Warren's Lobster House. The Mickey Dee's used to serve lobster rolls, but hasn't had them in the last few years.

Allow an hour for a side trip to ancient Fort McClary, overlooking the Piscataqua River that divides Maine from New Hampshire. The hexagonal fort is on a defense site that dates back to the late 1600s. The present blockhouse was built around 1845. The fort was abandoned at the end of World War I, after being prepared -- but never used -- to defend against invaders in five wars. There's a fantastic 360-degree view of the land and sea; and check out the super-sturdy granite and log construction (done pre-Black & Decker).

If you have the time, drive along the coast for a half hour or more, starting just north of the Fort. It's easy to get stuck, so use your GPS or a detailed map.

If you're not just passing through, consider staying in Portsmouth, New Hampshire -- just south of the Maine/NH border. There are lots of nice Hiltons and Marriotts and a Sheraton (some are dog friendly) plus good shopping, eating and lots of nature to look at. There are even two brew pubs. Also super-cheap gas, and NO SALES TAX. The NH state motto is "Live free or die."

CLICK for more about the outlets, including coupons. Fort photo from SeacoastNH.com

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ridiculously cheap Hi-def TV from Costco.com

I used to point out one of the wonders of the consumer electronics industry. Year after year it was always possible to get a 19-inch color TV for $299, despite inflation.

The prices of cars, houses, appliances and food went up. But TV prices stayed the same, even theough quality got better. Then, at some point, the price dropped to $199. Then, at some point I stopped paying attention, and stopped talking about it.

For years, I've had an old 19-inch CRT TV in my garage. It's one of the few-non-flat screens in my house, and only used a few hours a week, typically for the History Channel when I'm playing around with my historical 30-year old Fiat Spider. The TV has not aged gracefully. For the past couple of years, it has required a few forceful thumps to get it to do anything. Last year, it often had sound but no picture. This year, it often has no sound or picture.

For the few hours that I use it, it would be hard to justify buying my seventh Hi-def set, and I've been wondering about going to Goodwill and trying to buy back one of the CRT sets that I've previously donated.

BUT... I just saw a ridiculously cheap LCD flat screen set on the Costco.com website. It's only $249.99 plus just ten bucks for shipping. At that price, I couldn't imagine it was HDTV, but it is. HDTV is overkill for my garage, but WTF.

It does have 16 x 9 aspect ratio and contrast ratio is said to be 1000:1 Resolution is 480i / 480p / 720p / 1080i scaled -- not equal to my Sony XBR5s inside the house, but I'm not likely to play Blu-rays while I'm changing spark plugs, and the price was pretty close to freebie.

I've never owned any Sceptre products before, but they seem to be a substantial company and I trust Costco. Costco extends the manufacturer's warranty to 2 years, and accepts returns within 90 days from the date of purchase, so I don't think I have much to lose. Price is effective through 6/1, while supplies last. CLICK to order. I'll let you know how this thing looks when I get it, but I suspect it should be fine for garage, workshop, kid's room, guest room or kitchen.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Save big bucks on Sony Hi-def packages and get one year to pay with no interest

Get a bundle, save a bundle. Do you crave Hi-def movies? Save up to $490 on Sony Bravia HDTV packages when you pair an eligible HDTV with a Blu-ray player or home theater system. It's like getting the Blu-ray player for free, and saving additional money to pay for a bunch of movies, and popcorn. And you get a year to pay, with no interest. CLICK or call 1-877-865-SONY (7669).

Bundles include top-of-the-line XBR5 models, like I have in my movie room and bedroom. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New JVC camcorder does one-touch uploads to YouTube

A new JVC GZ-MS100 camcorder provides one-button uploading to YouTube, the online video community that allows people to discover, watch and share originally created videos. It should be available in June. Suggested retail price is $350.

The camcorder was designed to make sharing simpleand also provides the versatility to do more than shoot short Internet videos.

It looks like other Everio G Series camcorders, but is smaller and weighs only 0.60 lbs. including battery, because it records to an SD Card (user provided) instead of a built-in hard disk drive. The ever-increasing capacity and affordability of new SD Cards appearing on the market means that over time Everio S will be able to offer expanded recording time at a lower per-minute cost.

Once the provided CyberLink software is installed on a Windows® PC, uploading video clips to YouTube™ is quick and easy. The camcorder has an UPLOAD button that works in two ways. In the camera mode, press UPLOAD and then press the trigger, and this limits recordings to 10 minutes in length, which matches the YouTube™ file size limit. This eliminates the need to manually time recordings or go back to edit and shorten footage. After recording is done, connect the GZ-MS100 to a PC via a USB cable and press the UPLOAD button. This automatically launches the supplied application for uploading to YouTube™. After just a few mouse clicks the video will be on the Internet for everybody to see. The original quality is maintained in the camera, so it can be used for any other purpose.

For storage and cataloging, recorded videos can easily be transferred to a PC via USB2.0 or directly using the SD Card. The provided CyberLink application also allows easy burning to DVD using the computer’s optical disc drive.

Or, to create DVDs without using a computer, JVC offers the CU-VD3 Everio SHARE STATION as an option. Since it was designed as an Everio companion, this DVD burner accommodates Everio’s USB Host function that allows scene playback order to be rearranged within the camera before transfer.

The GZ-MS100 features Laser Touch Operation, first offered in the Everio G Series camcorders released earlier this year. The feature’s scroll bar and buttons are touch-sensitive so the user just glides a finger up or down the bar to choose menu items while its blue light follows the movements. The LCD screen itself is never touched, so it won’t get dirty, smudged or covered in fingerprints.

The 2.7-inch LCD screen, the same one used on Everio G series models, has Auto Backlight Control to automatically adjust brightness for comfortable viewing indoors or outdoors. And with Auto Power ON/OFF, the user simply opens up the LCD to power-on and start shooting (takes only about one second if Quick Restart mode is engaged), and closes the LCD to shut the power off and avoid draining the battery. The shape of the camcorder itself facilitates ease of use, with a contoured grip that snugly and securely fits the palm of the hand.

In addition to the supplied BN-VF808 rechargeable battery that provides 2 hr. 5 minutes of operation per charge, higher capacity batteries are available: BN-VF815 for 4 hr. 15 minutes and BN-VF823 for 6 hr. 25 minutes of continuous operation per charge.

The GZ-MS100 is equipped with a KONICA MINOLTA LENS that provides a 35x optical zoom. JVC’s proprietary Gigabrid Engine also contributes to quality by incorporating six digital noise reduction systems to improve the S/N ratio by about 30 percent (3dB) over previous models, and integrating the MPEG-2 encoder to help reduce block noise and mosquito noise. Other camera functions include Program AE with shooting modes to accommodate a variety of situations (Night, Twilight, Portrait, Sports, Snow, Spotlight), Digital Image Stabilizer to minimize camera-shake, and much more.
This is a preview, not a review.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Pananoids take note: Dutch study warns about brain damage from European DECT phones

A recent study from the Dutch Electrohypersensitivity Foundation has found that DECT cordless phones increase the risk of brain tumors and lesser maladies such as headaches, fatigue, heart palpitations and sleep problems.

Professor Lennart Hardell, a cancer researcher told TWICE magazine that while the "health effects of DECT are not well understood" his research group has "consistently" found "an association with DECT phones and brain tumors." His advice: "disconnect the phone" and buy a corded one instead.

Part of the issue is the DECT base station, which emits a constant stream of RF energy whether the phone is in use or not. Some DECT phone makers in Europe have begun to sell DECT phones whose base stations will power down when not in use, reducing RF power.

The Dutch study was conducted on the European implementation of the DECT standard which emits 250mW. In the United States, DECT phones emit half the power.

Makers of DECT phones and the DECT Forum noted that DECT phones must meet wireless safety standards before being sold in the US. They also pointed to a general consensus among major scientific institutions, including the World Health Organization and the Food and Drug Administration, that RF energy at the levels emitted by DECT phones do not constitute a health risk.

"International independent scientific organizations, such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, have developed guidelines which define exposure limits to electromagnetic fields. The ICNIRP guidelines include substantial safety factors (margins) to protect people," said a spokesperson for Philips. "These guidelines set by the ICNIRP have been widely adopted in standards around the world, and are also endorsed by the World Health Organization. Philips DECT products comply with all applicable standards regarding electromagnetic fields."

According to the DECT Forum, "There is no established evidence of any adverse health effects from exposure to radio waves within the limits applied to wireless communications."

VTech said it was looking at new DECT base stations that would power down when not in use, less for any health concerns but out of a desire to reduce energy consumption. "This issue definitely deserves more study and we'll watch it closely. When any new technology is introduced into the market, health fears frequently arise.

A few years ago there was an inconclusive scare about possible brain damage from the use of cellphones. Motorola was sued for $800 million by a Maryland doctor who claimed his phone caused his brain cancer. Judge Catherine Blake ruled that none of the evidence submitted by Dr. Christopher Newman was substantial enough to warrant a trial. (info from Twice & CBS news; photo by ELLIS, LOGAN & DIXON)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Neil Young collection coming to Blu-ray

Since the 1980s, Neil Young has been telling fans he is close to releasing an exhaustive, interactive archive of music, photographs, video footage and other material from his storied career. The project achieved legend status, not for the music it contains but because it has never appeared, despite Young's periodic promises. Young attributed the delays to technical shortcomings and sound-quality problems in media ranging from CD-ROMs to DVDs.

Last week, he announced his most concrete plans yet for the long-awaited project, using a medium few people can play and fewer still associate with music: Blu-ray.

Mr. Young's first, five-disc installment is due this fall, and is to cover his career from 1963 to 1972.

Among the memorabilia and artifacts to be digitally reproduced are letters from Young to his parents while on tours with his first band, the Squires, and business records. Some gigs in bars and high-school gyms around Canada paid the Squires as little as 10 Canadian dollars apiece.

Larry Johnson, the project's producer, says the first installment is to include about 128 songs, 18 of them never released before. There are to be 200 photographs, 160 lyrics manuscripts and more. Among the 90 articles and reviews are some less-than-favorable ones.

Young has long been one of the audiophiles, including Bob Dylan, who complain about the sound quality of CDs, saying it is inferior to that of vinyl records and the reel-to-reel tape still used in some recording studios. Young's "Archives" is the first major use of Blu-ray as an audio medium. (Other performers, including Céline Dion and Shakira, have released concert videos on Blu-ray.)

Even DVDs, which theoretically offer higher-quality sound than CDs, have drawbacks, Young said last week. "It wasn't really quite good enough. You couldn't go through the archival materials and listen to the high-res music at the same time, which is what I thought that most of my users would want to do." Blu-ray's audio "sampling rate," a key factor in digital-sound quality, is more than four times higher than that of a standard CD.

Larry Johnson, who has worked with Young since the two met at Woodstock, says Youngr talks of "Archives" as a near compulsion. Thanks to his love-hate relationship with technology, Young has obsessed over the project for years but had been unwilling or unable to complete it. "When we get it out," Johnson says, "he won't have to think about it anymore."

In Blu-ray, Mr. Young found a medium that resolved his two main problems, thanks to higher-quality audio and an animated, on-screen interface he says is "sort of like a videogame." The format addresses other issues, too. For instance, a purportedly exhaustive undertaking like "Archives" is bound to leave out material that surfaces later, or for which there isn't room. Thanks to a feature called BD-Live, Young and his collaborators can add material later, via Internet download, which can be stored on a hard drive in the Blu-ray player itself, where it will appear to a user as though it were part of the disc.

Still, not many fans own Blu-ray players. There are around six million Blu-ray players in North America, more than half of them in the Sony PlayStation 3 videogame systems. (That's equal to 0.8% of the 750 million CD players, including those built into PCs, in North American homes and vehicles.

Peter Standish, senior vice president for marketing at Reprise and its sister label, Warner Bros., says the company is working out how best to balance Young's concern with sound quality against the reality that few consumers can listen to Blu-ray discs. "We want to do right by Neil and by his fans," Standish says. "We're still formulating a decision" about whether and when to release the set on DVD and CD. As for plans to issue Blu-ray music releases for other artists, the executive adds, "It hasn't come up yet, but why not?"

The track record for physical music formats that purport to improve on CDs has been mixed at best, even as digital downloading has taken off. An alphabet soup of would-be successors have come and mostly gone without making a commercial dent. It's unclear whether a Blu-ray music disc can gain traction where SACD, HDCD, CDVU-Plus, DualDisc and DVD-A have not.

Young's collaborators say they are at work on volumes two through five of "Archives." Among the gems set for inclusion in the second volume is footage of Young jamming in a Northern California Chinese restaurant/nightclub with an early incarnation of the band Devo.

The footage includes some of the "warts" the rocker has opted to leave in. Devo's punked-out fans, apparently unimpressed by Young's legendary status, mocked him with a play on his name, according to Johnson, who filmed the episode. He recalls with a laugh that they welcomed Mr. Young to the stage chanting, "Real Dung!" (info & photos from The Wall Street Journal

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wal-Mart is a better place than AT&T to get an AT&T cellphone

Last year I replaced my Moto flipper with a new Samsung Sync. Initially I was impressed, but the love quickly ran cold.

I frequently struggled to flip open the wrong end, never learned the multiple button sequence to operate the camera or the hands-free speaker, and after a month I canceled the slooooow TV programming that was cute but totally impractical.

I knew it was just a matter of time before I'd replace it. It was just a matter of when, for what, and for how much.

The answer came two weeks ago, when the outer screen cracked. Apparently it collided with keys that I carelessly carried in the same pocket. I probably could have paid to get the Sammy fixed, but why prolong the agony?

I went to my local ATT store, and settled on a familiar Moto flipper. It was older technology. The display was not as sharp as the Sammy, but there was no doubt about flipping it open, or which button turned on the speakerphone or the camera.

"Regular" price, which no one pays, was $250, but with a rebate for contract renewal, the the price came down to $150. It seemed a bit high for older tech, but I went along with it just to end the shopping. I was more upset about having to use the ancient US mail to get my hundred bucks back.

Last week I was in Wal-Mart and I saw the same friggin phone with the same two-year AT&T deal for $48 and change. I used my new Moto to take a picture of the sign, and planned to show the evidence to the folks at my AT&T store to demand either a price match or a refund.


The Wal-Mart website offers "my" Motorazr V3xx as well as the more advanced Motorazr2 V9 (bigger display, better camera, streaming radio, Stereo Bluetooth, touch-sensitive external music keys). AND THEY'RE BOTH FREE with the same two-year contract renewal I would have gotten with a $150 phone at the AT&T store.

Up-yours, AT&T.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nearly-new red rotary dial phone: Show your kid how people lived before VoIP and wireless.

No Caller ID. No voicemail. No flash button. No batteries. No power cord. No MegaHertzes. No GigaHertzes. No mute button. No speaker. No redial. No memory. No headset jack. No antenna. No octothorpe. No pound sign. No shipping charge.

The last company to make rotary-dial phones in the USA stopped making them a few years ago. However, if you want a phone that looks and works like Elvis-era telecommunications, there is a good solution.

FrillFreePhones.com recently discovered a stash of New Old Stock parts, and for a while, they'll be able to supply what they're calling Nearly New Phones. They have a one-year warranty, just like when they were factory-fresh.

When a call comes in, instead of a wimpy 21st-century warble, you'll hear the sound of a powerful mechanical "dual-gong ringer," just like on Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best, and Happy Days.

The plastic shell is new and shiny. The handset has never been held by anyone outside the factory or assembly plant. The dial has never been dialed, except for testing. The cords are brand-new, too. No one will now it's not 100% new unless they turn the phone over. Price is $123, with free shipping to all 50 states, even if you live or work in Dutch Harbor, Alaska or Niihau, Hawaii. CLICK to order.
Note: a rotary-dial phone should work fine even if your other phones are touch-tone, BUT may not work with some VoIP companies. Check with your service provider. BUT, you may receive incorrect information.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

off-topic medical warning

A Do Not Resuscitate, or DNR, order is a written order from a doctor that resuscitation should not be attempted if a person suffers cardiac or respiratory arrest. Such an order may be instituted on the basis of an advance directive from a person, or from someone entitled to make decisions on their behalf, such as a health care proxy; in some jurisdictions, such orders can also be instituted on the basis of a physician's own initiative, usually when resuscitation would not alter the ultimate outcome of a disease, and is designed to prevent unnecessary suffering.

(Above from Wikipedia)

My wife's cousin Barbara has had a DNR order for years. She thought it made sense. She didn't want to live "like a vegetable."

She was recently hospitalized. Her heart stopped. Her regular doctor was not at the hospital, and no one at the hospital knew that there was a DNR order. She was resuscitated and is doing fine and will be coming home soon.

DNR orders may make sense in some cases, but if it was is followed in this case, Barbara would be dead. If you or a loved one has a DNR order, you should review it.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

If you bought an old iPod, Apple may owe you money

I'll be away on Monday, so I'm doing the Monday blog on Saturday.

Apple has agreed to settle two class-action lawsuits in Canada alleging it misled customers about the staying power of iPods, the latest settlement over the dwindling battery life of early iPods.

According to a court document, Apple is offering credits for its online store of about $45 to people who live in Canada and bought certain iPods there on or before June 24, 2004.

To be eligible, the battery life of their iPods - while continuously playing music - needs to have dropped to five hours or less for the first and second generation of the device and four hours or less for the third generation.

The lead plaintiffs in the lawsuits - iPod owners Ines Lenzi and Bradley Waddell - claimed Apple misrepresented iPods' battery life by claiming they were capable of eight to 10 hours of continual music playback. After recharging, however, the iPods' battery life began declining.

In 2005, the company settled a separate class-action lawsuit in the US over similar claims about iPod battery life. In that case, Apple agreed to give some iPod owners $50 in store credit or $25 in cash if the battery life in their early-generation iPods dropped below certain levels. (info from the Associated Press)

Friday, May 9, 2008

2-conductor line cords for H-P fax machines

A few times each year I get inquiries from people who need to replace the line cord for a Hewlett-Packard fax machine. The instruction manual and the HP website warn that only a two-conductor cord should be used instead of the much more common four-conductor cord, but people have trouble finding one.

There is no technical reason why a fax, or a phone, or any single-line telecom device that normally requires two conductors, would not work with a four-conductor cord, when the extra wires are not connected to anything; but HP keeps insisting on it.

I checked with HP tech support. I was told that 99% of the time, their fax machines will work just fine with four-conductor cords, but in about one percent of the time, the extra two conductors (wires) can act as an antenna and pick up interference that hurts faxing.

Why a 1% chance leads to the "You must use a cable that has only two copper leads" warning is beyond me.

And I also don't understand why Panasonic, Brother, Sharp, NEC and other brands don't worry about it.

And I don't understand why HP chooses to ignore all of the other pairs of wire that may be inside the wall behind the jack where the fax is plugged in.

I think the real reason why HP supplies two-wire cords with their fax machines is that they save a couple of pennies on each one.

However, keep in mind that if your faxing is going gaflooey, and you’re using a four-conductor line cord, there is a 1% chance that the cord really is the source of the trouble.

Now you know the truth. So, if you’ve tried everything else, now try another cord. CLICK to get one at CordsForPhones.com. The website also has a huge selection of phone cords and accessories, and bargain priced flat rate shipping to all 50 states. and lots of info about phone cords. (Disclaimer: it's my website.)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

iPhone rival has faster web & better camera

On Tuesday. HTC unveiled its new flagship phone, the HTC Touch Diamond, a rival to the Apple iPhone, notable for "unmistakable style, meticulous craftsmanship, compact size, game-changing Internet and its new captivating 3D touch interface called TouchFLO 3D," according to the manufacturer.

TouchFLO 3D provides animated access to people, messaging, email, photos, music, weather and more. In addition, HTC is introducing a new touch-sensitive control for interacting with Touch Diamond.

With the introduction of the Touch Diamond, HTC delivers broadband-like speeds with HSDPA 7.2 Mbps and HSUPA wireless connectivity. Committed to improving Web browsing, HTC provides a new customized mobile Web browser that enables easy viewing and effortless navigation of websites. Users can zoom and pan Websites with one-hand and automatically view optimized content that has been specially created to fit the display. Turning the device sideways automatically rotates the web page view from a portrait to landscape view.

In addition to Web browsing, the Touch Diamond includes a customized new, HTC-developed, YouTube application for watching a variety of user generated video content as well as utilizing Google Maps for mobile for mapping and traffic data.

The 2.8 inch display is said to provide near-print quality viewing that enables beautiful Web browsing and viewing of photographs. The built-in camera includes an optical auto-focus lens. Other features include advanced wireless and auto sensor screen pivoting.

The HTC Touch Diamond will be available from major European carriers in June. It will be available later this quarter in Asia and the Middle East. The North American and Latin American versions will be available in the second half of 2008.

Key Specifications

Size: 102 x 51 x 11.33mm
Weight: 110 g
Connectivity: WCDMA / HSPA: 900/2100MHz. HSDPA 7.2 Mbps and HSUPA
Operating system: Windows Mobile® 6.1 Professional
Display: 2.8-inch VGA touch screen
Camera: 3.2MP, with video calling
Internal memory: 4 GB Internal Storage, 256 MB flash, 192 MB RAM,
Bluetooth: 2.0 with EDR
Wireless: WiFi 802.11b/g
Interface: HTC ExtUSBTM (mini-USB and audio jack in one; USB 2.0 High-Speed)
Battery: 900 mAh
Talk time: GSM: up to 4 hours
Standby time: GSM: up to 300 hours/100 hours with push email
Chipset: Qualcomm® MSM 7201ATM 528MHz

This is a preview, not a review.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Put (almost) any picture on a postage stamp

If you're tired of licking the backsides of dead presidents, you can lick and stick your favorite photos on bills, love letters and greeting cards. PhotoStamps are authorized and recognized as official postage by the US Postal Service. A sheet of 20 stamps costs $5 to $10 more than the cost of postage. You can upload your own photos or select team or college logos or stock photos from the website.

Now you don't have to be a mailman to go postal. CLICK for Stamps.com.
This is a preview, not a review.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sunkist shelled pistachios are too easy to eat

Probably nothing tastes worse than a bad pistachio nut. And unfortunately, by the time you know it's a bad nut, it's too late. Even if you spit it out, you're stuck with the disgusting slimy taste in your mouth.

However, it's just a small price -- sort of a tax -- that pistachio lovers willingly put up with to indulge in each bag of joy.

Because of international politics, the pistachio situation in the US had seriously declined until recently. Most pistachios had come from Iran (which used to be called Persia). Back in the days of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was a US ally who spent lavishly on his family but tortured and imprisoned many of his citizens, there was a plentiful supply of excellent pistachios.

The administration of President Jimmy Carter in 1977 created a strain on relations between Iran and the United States. Carter, unlike previous American presidents, was outspoken about his criticism of the Shah's government and its human rights record. Carter pressured the Shah to allow more freedom for dissidents.

In 1979, Iranians revolted and the Shah was ousted. Ayatollah Khomeini became Iran's new leader and soon began issuing vicious rhetoric against the United States, describing the country as the "Great Satan".

On November 4, 1979, a revolutionary group, angered that the recently deposed Shah had been allowed into the US for cancer treatment, occupied the American embassy in Tehran and took 52 US diplomats hostage for 444 days

The crisis led to lasting economic and diplomatic damage, and a disruption to the flow of rugs and pistachios. On April 7, 1980, the United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran, a break which has yet to be restored.

The ordeal reached a climax when the United States attempted a rescue on April 24, 1980, which resulted in an aborted mission and the deaths of eight soldiers. The crisis ended with the signing of the Algiers Accords on January 20, 1981, and the hostages were freed.

California produces almost all US pistachios, and about half of these are exported, mainly to China, Japan, Europe and Canada. In the early days, they were dry, and tasteless, but the growers have learned and now they can compete with the Iranians.

Sunkist -- known mainly for oranges, markets a two-pound pouch of "pistachio kernels" -- nuts without the shells -- that they say equals four pounds of nuts in the shells.

They are absolutely delicious, dry-roasted and with just the right amount of salt, and with maybe just one bad nut per pound.

Unlike regular pistachios, you won't have cracked teeth, cut lips, slashed tongues or broken finger nails from opening the shells.

Unfortunately, the inconvenience of opening "normal" nuts is a self-limiting factor. Sooner or later you get tired of opening the shells and you put the bag away for another day. The pre-shelled nuts are so convenient, there's nothing to prevent you from scarfing down a pound or two all at once!

I buy mine at Sam's Club, but they're also available at Amazon.com and elsewhere. Price is about $20.

CLICK for more info, and a chance for win a year's supply of pistachios.

Most people buy pistachios for the taste, but they might also be good for you!

In July 2003, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first qualified health claim specific to nuts lowering the risk of heart disease: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces (42.5g) per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease". In research at Pennsylvania State University, pistachios in particular significantly reduced levels of LDL, the 'bad' cholesterol, in the blood of volunteers. Pennsylvania State University's Department of Nutrition and Sciences has also conducted related research on other health benefits of pistachios, including an April 2007 study concluding that pistachios may calm acute stress reaction, and a June 2007 study on the cardiovascular health benefits of eating pistachios. (info from Wikipedia)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Just look and drool. No reason to say anything.

Bell & Ross is only making 500 of the BR01-92. It sells for about four large, so it may be time to finally crack open your piggy bank, or send your kids to a cheaper school. Even Cynical Cousin Dave thinks this watch is OK. CLICK for more

Friday, May 2, 2008

Movies from iTunes on same day as DVDs

Yesterday Apple today announced that new movie releases from major film studios and independent studios are available for purchase on the iTunes Store website on the same day as their DVD release. New releases and catalog titles will be available from 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal, Sony Pictures, Lionsgate, Image Entertainment and First Look Studios.

Movies purchased from iTunes can be viewed on an iPod with video, iPhone, Mac or PC or on a widescreen TV with Apple TV, with new releases priced at $14.99 and most catalog titles at $9.99.

New releases available for purchase on the iTunes Store this week, concurrent with their DVD release, include “American Gangster” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Other popular titles now available for purchase include “Juno,” “Cloverfield,” “I Am Legend,” “There Will Be Blood,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.”

The iTunes Store is the world’s most popular online music, TV and movie store with a catalog of over six million songs, 600 TV shows and over 1,500 films including 200 in hi-def video.

Movie purchases and rentals from the iTunes Store for Mac or Windows require iTunes 7.6.2, available as a free download immediately from www.itunes.com. iTunes movie purchases and rentals require a valid credit card with a billing address in the country of purchase. iTunes Movies are available in the US only and cost $9.99 for library title purchases and $14.99 for new release purchases and $2.99 for library title rentals and $3.99 for new release rentals, and high definition rental versions are priced one dollar more. Short films are available to rent for 99 cents.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

If you have a real crappy phone cord,
you can win a free BatPhone

Despite the boom in wireless and cordless phones, most phones still use two cords.

CordsForPhones.com is a new website with a huge selection of high quality telephone cords for your office and home, and can help you replace worn out cords, tangled cords, or cords that are too short, too long or the wrong color. A money-saving shipping program can get up six cords to any address in the USA in two or three days for just $9; or up to 20 cords anywhere in the 50 states for just $12 -- even to Alaska and Hawaii.

While the purpose of the website is to get people to replace their crummy old telephone cords, they're having a contest that will reward some folks who have resisted warnings to upgrade.

People with crappy, crummy, cruddy, tangled, mangled, faded, melted, twisted, foul-smelling, bug-infested, run-over, static-prone, intermittent, paint-dripped, ink-dipped, chewed-up, stretched-out or wrong-color cords are encouraged to email a picture of the cord.

If your cord is ugly enough, or your digital picture is funny enough, you'll win a bright red BatPhone with a flashing red light. It's similar to the one Commissioner Gordon used when he called Batman for help when there was trouble in Gotham City. Your BatPhone will have two perfectly good, brand new cords. CLICK for contest details.