Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Last-minute reminder:
Super-easy way to make charitable donations, and maybe get a free vacation.

Last-minute reminder:
Super-easy way to make charitable donations, and maybe get a free vacation.

As the year ends, you have only a few more hours to make tax deductable donations to charity. It's not a big deal to write a couple of checks, and lots of charities accept credit card donations and have convenient websites. However, if you want to spread money around, AmEx makes it extremely easy -- and personally profitable.

The Giving Express program connects you to over a million charitable organizations! You can search for them by name, keywords, location, or use an extensive list of categories such as performing arts, education, health care, housing, human rights, disaster relief, religion and much more. The AmEx website has financial reports, mission statements, contacts, and other information regarding the organizations.

Donating online helps nonprofit organizations reduce administrative costs so that they can do more with the money. Your dollar donations are tax-deductible and you’ll receive an e-mail receipt for your records.

• Give to one or more charities and nonprofit organizations
• Donate dollars with your American Express Card
• Donate Membership Rewards points
• Set up recurring donations

When you make a donation, you'll get an immediate e-mail confirmation for each transaction. AmEx will post a detailed record of all your donations on your password-protected Giving History web page, if you need a record for an IRS audit in the future. CLICK

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TI calculator is vital for anyone who sells stuff

Texas Instruments would probably prefer to be known for its pioneering work in transistors and integrated circuits. The company makes advanced semiconductor products that are used in cellphones, satellites, cars, computers and Hi-Def TVs. They also make an incredibly useful $25 calculator that belongs on the desks of everyone who buys and sells things.

TI's BA-20 "Profit Manager" has been made for 10 years or more in several versions, but its important special functions have remained, providing easy answers to pricing decisions for merchants.

Preprogrammed functions quickly provide cost-sell-margin solutions; enter any two variables and the third appears instantly.

If you know your cost, and desired profit margin, you tap some brainy buttons and it tells you how much to sell an item for.

If you know your cost, and the selling price, you tap some brainy buttons and it tells you what your margin is.

Less useful, if you know your selling price, and your margin, you tap some brainy buttons and it tells you what your cost might have been.

It's solar powered, has readable buttons and display digits, and does basic math, too. My oldest one even has a digital clock. Highly recommended. Available at Amazon, Staples and other office suppliers.

Monday, December 22, 2008

EnGenius long-range cordless phone

Most cordless phones can work a few hundred feet from their base. That's fine for most homes and offices, but not nearly enough for a ranch, farm, car lot, campus, warehouse or a big office building or store.

EnGenius Technologies has been marketing long-range cordless phones in the US for about a decade. EnGenius is part of Senao, a Taiwanese manufacturer of phones and wireless data equipment. Some Senao phones can go dozens of miles, but they're not legal in the US. The EnGenius phones are legal here, and can usually reach a mile or more. They have more "horsepower" than other cordlesses, and can even punch through metal walls.

The first generation EnGenius was independently tested to have a five-mile range. Unless you live in death valley, you probably won't reach that far, but coverage of 12 floors in building, 250,000 sq. ft. in a warehouse, and 3,000 acres on a farm, ranch, car lot or campus is not unusual. That's more than 130 million square feet!

EnGenius was one of the first companies to offer a cordless phone with a separate base that can be positioned for maximum range, while the handset needs just a charging cradle, but no phone jack. They were also one of the first companies to offer multi-handset cordless phone systems with handset-to-handset intercom.

EnGenius "DuraFons" are extremely rugged. They are industrial strength phones, built to be dropped and splashed. In addition to providing phone service, they also act as walkie-talkies, and provide paging from one handset to multiple handsets.

Several DuraFon systems are available, for 1, 4 or 32 lines; and up to 9, 32, or 90 handsets. A DuraFon can be connected directly to phone company dialtone, or used with another phone system. Many accessories are available, including an external range-boosting antenna. More info is at www.engenius.info.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Flashing red BatPhone can be delivered before Christmas

Now everyone can have a red phone with a flashing light like Batman.

When there’s trouble in Gotham City, Police Commissioner Gordon calls caped crusader Batman, the secret alter ego of millionaire Bruce Wayne.

At Wayne Manor, the flashing red Batphone is answered by Alfred the butler, who tells Wayne about the trouble. Then Wayne and his young ward Dick Grayson put on their superhero costumes. As Batman and Robin, they race from the Batcave in the Batmobile to battle evil-doers, or rescue citizens in distress.

Now everyone can have a bright red flashing Batphone just like a superhero. When an emergency call - or even an ordinary call - comes in, a bright red light centered in a shiny chrome ring starts flashing to attract attention.

The Batphone has classic sixties styling, with heavy-duty construction, a two-year warranty, and is made in the USA. It gets all of its power from the phone line, and doesn’t require a power cord or batteries. It can work on an ordinary home phone line, or on an "analog extension port" in a business phone system.

The phone rings when the light flashes, unless a purchaser prefers the bell to be disconnected for silent signaling, or an optional high-pitched "BatSignal" or buzzer to be installed instead of the bell. Price with the bell is $122, including "ground" shipping to all 50 states. Fast shipping for delivery by Christmas costs extra.

Order online at www.GetABatPhone.com, or call toll-free 1-888-225-3999.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Now everyone can have a flashing red phone like Batman

When there’s trouble in Gotham City, Police Commissioner Gordon calls caped crusader Batman, the secret alter ego of millionaire Bruce Wayne.

At Wayne Manor, the flashing red Batphone is answered by Alfred the butler, who tells Wayne about the trouble. Then Wayne and his young ward Dick Grayson put on their superhero costumes. As Batman and Robin, they race from the Batcave in the Batmobile to battle evil-doers, or rescue citizens in distress.

Now everyone can have a bright red flashing Batphone just like a superhero. When an emergency call - or even an ordinary call - comes in, a bright red light centered in a shiny chrome ring starts flashing to attract attention.

This new phone, developed by AbleComm, Inc., has classic sixties styling, with heavy-duty construction, and a two-year warranty. It gets all of its power from the phone line, and doesn’t require a power cord or batteries.

The phone rings when the light flashes, unless a purchaser prefers the bell to be disconnected for silent signaling, or an optional high-pitched "BatSignal" or buzzer to be installed instead of the bell. Price with the bell is $122, including shipping to all 50 states.

Order online at www.GetABatPhone.com, or call toll-free 1-888-225-3999.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Heavenly Phone can give anyone
a direct line to God.

Some clergy men and women have claimed to have a "direct line to God," and other people merely act that way. Now anyone can have a high quality communications device that implies a direct link to a Higher Power.

Imagine the reaction of visitors when the phone rings, and you answer, "This is your humble servant, how may I assist you?"

It's a great Chanukah/Kwanzaa/Christmas gift for any lay person or clergy person with a sense of humor, or buy one for yourself.

AbleComm's GodPhone is non-denominational, and suitable for rabbis, priests, pastors, chaplains, padres, preachers, ministers, cardinals, imams, monks, nuns, gurus, or any spiritual leader. You probably shouldn't give it to an atheist.

The phone is "office quality," not a toy, made in the USA, and has a seven-year warranty. The phone does not have buttons for dialing out. It will generally be used for answering calls or just as a passive prop.

It can be connected to a phone system with automatic dialing and programmed to call a specific number when the handset is lifted. You can also get an upgraded version with internal memory for automatic dialing, but as with prayers, there is no guarantee that God will answer you.

Price of the standard GodPhone is $100. The Auto-dial GodPhone costs $240. Both models get free shipping anywhere in the USA. CLICK for more info and ordering. AbleComm also manufactures the BatPhone, PizzaPhone and Presidential HotLine phone.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Great gift idea: Pizzaphone automatically calls for food

An exciting alternative to the traditional ties and wrench sets that often appear at this time of year, the PizzaPhone® is a unique gift for Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas or almost any day. It can be easily programmed to call a favorite pizzeria, and the number is dialed as soon as the handset is lifted.

If another restaurant becomes the new favorite, it takes just a few seconds to re-program the phone’s memory. A manually-dialed PizzaPhone is also available.
The PizzaPhone is the ultimate status symbol for a college dorm, fraternity or apartment, or an executive office; and it's a great "power tool" for garage or basement.

It's also good for a lodge or club, the kitchen or break room at work; and although women can use it, it will be particularly appreciated anywhere hungry guys hang out.

The PizzaPhone is a great gift for others, but people can also use it to reward themselves. If a husband puts it on the kitchen wall at home, it might even encourage his wife to cook more. Or he might get hit with the phone.

PizzaPhone easily mounts on a standard "RJ11W" wall phone jack. It works with an ordinary analog phone line, or VoIP, or cable TV phone service, or in a business or institution's phone system. It can also be installed in a hotel or motel lobby or on a military base. PizzaPhone is powered by the telephone line. No AC power or battery is required.

Two models are available. The automatic-dialing PizzaPhone, which can be easily pre-programmed by the user to call a favorite restaurant, sells for $177, with free shipping anywhere in the United States, and has a two-year warranty. The manual-dialing PizzaPhone, which can also be used as a conventional telephone, sells for $77, with free shipping anywhere in the 50 states, and has a five-year warranty. It can even be used to order Chinese or Mexican food. Both phones can answer incoming calls.

The PizzaPhone is a product of RedHotPhones, the developer of the BatPhone, the GodPhone and the Presidential HotLine Phone. CLICK for more information and ordering.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hundred-buck 3G wireless netbook at RadioShack

RadioShack is now selling its first netbook, the Acer Aspire One. This is the first time Acer is offering a 3G-capable version of its One in the US market. (The Shack model may not be blue as in the photo above.)

The Shack will offer the device at $99.99 for customers who sign up for a qualifying two-year AT&T DataConnect mobile broadband service agreement with plans starting at $60/month. Price is $499.99 without the service plan.

The 2.44-pound netbook features 1GB memory, 8.9" screen, 160GB hard drive, built-in memory card readers and Windows XP software. The unit has integrated 3G functionality in addition to full Wi-Fi capability. CLICK for more. (info from TWICE)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Great deals on refurbed hi-def TVs at Tiger

I'm a big fan of Tiger Direct.

Over the years they've been my main source for bare-bones and complete PCs, components for PCs, monitors and printers, and a bunch of ready-to-use desktops and laptops. Their regular prices are very good, but I've often taken advantage of their big bargains on refurbished equipment for my office.

Yesterday I ordered a refurbished flatscreen Vizio HDTV for a guest room, to replace one of the last CRT TVs in the house. They have a variety of sizes and other brands include Toshiba, Samsung, JVC and Sharp. There are also discounts on wall mounts, Blu-ray players, cables and remotes.

I've never regretted buying refurbished electronic products, and I assume this TV will be just about perfect. It was probably returned to Costco or Sam's Club by someone who was too stupid to realize he needed an HDTV signal to see hi-def.

Shipping charges are reasonable. You probably won't have to pay sales tax. And with a Tiger credit card, you can pay over a few months with no interest.

Quanities are limited. Act fact. You can get delivery before Chanukah. CLICK

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New favorite salsa and chips are both from Costco

Ola Senor y Senorita!

I eat lots of salsa and tortilla chips, and I've tried lots of brands over the years. Many salsa brands, including Chi-Chi's and Ortega are acceptable to me -- especially if I have to grab a jar at a nearby 7-11 or Mobil Mart for late-night motel munching.

For the last year or so I had standardized on Santa Barbara salsa from Costco, and the ubiquitious Scoops chips made by Frito-Lay. Their spoon-bowl shape made lots of sense, and they tasted fine. I also like the fresh-made freebie chips served at On-The-Border restaurants, and usually order a refill towards the end of a meal, so I know I'll have some left-overs that they'll pack for me to take home. My wife complains that they're too salty, but she usually scarfs down the contents of the doggie bag before I get a chance. She doesn't like salsa, tho.

I'm a big Costco fan. I'm there twice a week for food, electronics, office supplies, books, DVDs, tools, car stuff, garbage bags, clothes, everything. The constant stream of new products, good value, great customer service, plus free food samples make an unbeatbale combination. I'm also a member of BJ's and Sam's Club, but Costco is always my preferred warehouse destination.

A couple of weeks ago, one of their nice old ladies served me a free sample of their own Kirkland brand organic salsa, on their own Kirkland brand organic tortilla chips. I was immediately impressed, and bought a bag and a big bottle. Yesterday I bought another bag and bottle. They are my new standard, and I highly recommend them.

The chips are not as convenient as Scoops, but the superior taste makes up for having to use a spoon to spread the joy. Of course, you can rough-it and just shove a chip into the salsa. I prefer spreading to dipping.

I buy them for the flavor, but they're also organic. If that impresses you, you'll have two reasons to buy them. And because they're from Costco, you'll save money and have fun shopping, so you'll have four reasons.

CHIP HINT: invariably, as you progress to the bottom of the chip bag, the pieces get smaller and smaller and eventually the pieces and crumbs are just too small to put salsa on. Here are two ways to prolong the joy and minimize the waste. (1) Put the small pieces in a bowl so your dog can eat them. (2) Put the small pieces in a bowl, mash them up with a spoon, pour on the salsa and mix it up and eat with a spoon. YUM.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New movie recommendation service is powered by people

Clerk dogs believes that people give the best movie recommendations and has a search system powered by human beings, not algorithms.

Its database is made up of hundreds of thousands of individual recommendations from dozens of former video store clerks. The former clerks, who should understand why customers like movies, have analyzed the characteristics of movies to create a database that is said to be much richer and deeper than collaborative filtering engines. The system was designed to allow customers to interact with the database and to take control of their movie selection experience.

The movie genome project that powers Clerk Dogs was started when Stuart Skorman opened a brick-and-mortar video store in 1985, and moved to the web in 1995 when he founded Reel.com. Two years ago he reunited the original writers from Reel.com to create the new movie recommendation site.

Skorman says he designed the search engine for the movie buffs who have seen so many movies that they’re having a hard time finding new ones (or old ones) that they will really love.


A search for Bedtime for Bonzo turned up nothing.

A search for Back to the Future showed the sequels. No surprises there. However, when I clicked on "Mash It" I reached a deeper analysis page with slider controls that allowed me to adjust such characteristics as "action" and "screwball humor" to reveal more recommendations, including Miss Congeniality and Blue Streak.

More clicks provide additional movie data, and ordering from Amazon.com

Monday, December 8, 2008

Super deals from Herrington. ACT FAST!

The Herrington Catalog, seller of all kinds of cool Big Boys Toys (as well as clothing and household items), is having a warehouse clearance sale, with discounts of 25 - 50% or more.


Friday, December 5, 2008

New Monster-size pizza from the Hut
(but it's not really bigger than their Bigfoot)

Having grown up in New Haven, and having recently returned to the area after a 37-year absence, I am a pizza snob.

New Haven pizza, as pioneered by Pepe's and Sally's on Wooster Street, spelled "apizza" and pronounced "ah-beetz," is the real thing.

I regard most pizza, particularly mass-produced chain pizza from Domino's, as little more than cardboard with ketchup.

"California" pizza, laden with pineapple, barbecued ferns, tofu, frog vomit, sun-dried twigs and organic pebbles should be illegal.

I am offended by "white pizza" because the essence of pizza is the sauce. If it's not red, like a Ferrari, it's not pizza.

I never order "extra cheese." A traditional New Haven apizza (sometimes called a "tomato pie") has grated cheese, but no mozzarella ("mootz") on it. You can get mootz, but it's an extra-cost topping.

Nevertheless, despite its lack of authenticity, I have enjoyed the pizza-like food that comes out of the non-brick ovens at Pizza Hut. It tastes fine IF I don't think of it as pizza. As Cynical Cousin Dave explains, "It's not pizza, it's Pizza Hut."

Back in 1993, PH offered a giant rectangual pie aptly called the BIGFOOT. It measured two square feet, and cost $10.99 with up to three toppings. CLICK to see a commerical. It was great for parties, but despite many enthusiastic customers, the product disappeared. It may have been a PITA to produce.

Now PH is trying again, with their PANORMOUS pizza. They say it's
biggest pan pizza they've ever made. I don't think it's really bigger than Bigfoot, but it's over 40% bigger than PH's large pan pizza. Price is $12.99 with one topping per "side."

Like Bigfoot, it may not be available for long. Some PH employees are already grumbling about having to assemble yet another size cardboard box.

FREEBIE MUSIC BONUS: if you order Panormous online, you can get 75 free MP3s for yourself from eMusic, plus 75 free MP3s for five friends. (I'm not sure if they each get 75, or if you divide up the 75 among them.)

BULLSHIT REPORT: Actually, Panormous doesn't have two sides. And actually, it's not one enormous pizza like Bigfoot was. Panormous is two separate 8-slice pizzas sold in one box.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Nokia "mobile computer" (cellphone)

On Tuesday Nokia unveiled the N97, which the company says is the world's most advanced mobile computer, and will "transform the way people connect to the Internet and to each other."

Designed for the needs of the Internet-savvy, the N97 combines a large 3.5" touch display with a full QWERTY keyboard, providing an always-open window to favorite social networking sites and Internet destinations. It has new technology - including multiple sensors, memory, processing power and connection speeds - for people to create a personal Internet and share their "social location."

With integrated A-GPS sensors and an electronic compass, the Nokia N97 mobile computer intuitively understands where it is. This makes it easy to update social networks automatically with real-time information, giving approved friends the ability to update their "status" and share their "social location" as well as related pictures or videos.

The home screen of the N97 features the people, content and media that matter the most. Friends, social networks and news are available by simply touching the home screen. The 16:9 widescreen display can be fully personalized with frequently updated widgets of favorite web services and social networking sites. The N97 is also suited for browsing the web, streaming Flash videos or playing games. Both the physical QWERTY and virtual touch input can aid efficiency in blogging, chatting, posting, sending texts or emailing.

The Nokia N97 supports up to 48 GB of storage, including 32 GB of onboard memory, expandable with a 16 GB microSD card for music, media and more. This is complemented by music capabilities, full support for the Nokia Music Store and continuous playback time of up to 1.5 days.

The Nokia N97 also has a 5-Megapixel camera with high-quality Carl Zeiss optics, 16:9 and DVD quality video capture, and support for services like Share on Ovi for immediate sharing over HSDPA and WLAN.

The Nokia N97 is expected to begin shipping in the first half of 2009 at an estimated retail price of $699 before taxes or subsidies.
This is a preview, not a review.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bargain breakfast at Mickey Dee's

People have been eating breakfast sandwiches (lox on a bagel, egg on a roll) for a very long time. But the notion of a portable morning meal that could be eaten from one hand while the other hand clutches the steering wheel, really took off in 1973, when McDonald's introduced the Egg McMuffin. It also put McDonalds into the breakfast business.

Egg McMuffin is a slice of Canadian bacon (which doesn't have to come from Canada any more than French Fries must be imported from France), a grilled egg, and a slice of cheese on an English muffin. A Sausage McMuffin with Egg is a popular variation that uses a sausage patty in place of the Canadian bacon. In the UK, the McMuffin is available without bacon for vegetarians. People order a "Bacon Egg McMuffin" to get the equivalent of the US version.

Former McDonald's President Ray Kroc wrote that Herb Peterson, the operator of their Santa Barbara franchise, asked him to look at something, not telling him what it was because it was "...a crazy idea, a breakfast sandwich. It consisted of an egg that had been formed in a Teflon circle with the yolk broken, and was dressed with a slice of cheese and a slice of grilled Canadian bacon. It was served open-faced on a toasted and buttered English muffin."

Peterson believed that to launch an entirely new food line, such as breakfast, McDonald's needed something unique and yet something that could be eaten like all other McDonald's items -- with the fingers. His solution came when he started modifying an Eggs Benedict sandwich that was being marketed by Jack-in-the-Box.

By Christmas of 1971, Peterson had been working on the product for months. He had experimented with prepackaged Hollandaise, which he rejected as too runny. He replaced it instead with a slice of cheese, which when melted on a hot egg produced the consistency he was looking for. He also had to develop a foolproof way of preparing an egg on a grill to give it the appearance of a poached egg. Poaching eggs did not fit with McDonald's assembly line production process, but Peterson solved the problem by developing a new cooking utensil -- a cluster of six Teflon-coated metal rings -- that was placed on the grill to give eggs a round shape to match an English muffin. When he added grilled Canadian bacon, Peterson had a breakfast product perfect for a sandwich-oriented fast-food chain.

In 1971, Kroc was celebrating Christmas at his ranch near Santa Barbara, and Peterson asked him to stop by the store.

Peterson was ready with a demonstration of his new product, and a flip-chart to explain its economics; but it was taste, not economics that convinced Kroc. He had just finished lunch before seeing Peterson, but he devoured two of the new sandwiches anyway. At Kroc's request, Peterson took his Teflon rings to Chicago to prepare his new breakfast for the rest of McDonald's senior managers, all of whom responded as positively as Kroc had.

McDonald's was ready to test the product nationwide, as soon as it settled on a name. Peterson favored calling it McDonald's Fast Break Breakfast, but the name had been copyrighted, but never used, by Nabisco. One evening, Mr. and Mrs. Kroc were having dinner with McDonald's exec Fred Turner and his wife Patty. Patty Turner suggested calling it the Egg McMuffin, and the name stuck.


(info from MCDONALD'S: BEHIND THE ARCHES by John F. Love, Wikipedia, & other sources).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Still have a job?
Celebrate with an $8,000 Nikon

On Sunday Nikon announced the D3X, an FX-format digital SLR featuring extreme 24.5-megapixel resolution and superb low-noise capabilities, which provides professional photographers with commercial-quality image performance in a familiar and versatile D-SLR form factor. It's intended to excel in all types of professional photographic disciplines from photojournalism and sideline sports, to commercial in-studio applications. It's also a great toy for rich amateurs.

The foundation of the enhanced performance of the D3X is its FX-format, 24.5-megapixel (6048 x 4032) CMOS sensor providing commercial, high fashion, fine art and landscape photographers with the extreme resolution, dynamic range, color depth, detail and sharpness that clients demand. The large 5.94-micron pixel size and high signal to noise ratio can produce vibrant images with breathtaking image fidelity while reducing lost highlights and shadows, and ensuring smoother tone reproduction with minimized noise, according to Nikon. With full resolution shooting speeds of up to five frames-per-second (fps), and 14-bit files, that when processed are approximately 138 MB, the D3X offers an extreme level of performance and versatility .

To re-emphasize the importance of image quality above all else, the D3X aims to deliver extremely high resolution, exceptional dynamic range, phenomenal total gradation and outstanding color reproduction. Image files can be recorded as TIFF, JPEG or NEF (RAW) formats in either 12- or 14-bit compressed or uncompressed formats, and recorded to UDMA compatible CompactFlash™ cards for optimum speed. Photographers can save image files directly to the dual card slots as overflow, backup, or as separate file formats to different cards. Building on the D3X's flexibility, users have the creative option to shoot in the 5:4 crop mode with 20.4-megapixel resolution, the ideal format for creating 8 x 10-inch portraits. While using DX-format lenses, faster continuous shooting of up to seven frames per second can be achieved at a resolution of 10.5 megapixels.

The low noise of the D3X is essential to any professional commercial application, and it provides photographers with an ISO range of 100 to 1600, expandable to 50 (Lo-1) and 6400 (Hi-2). The ultra smooth tones and lack of grain at ISO 1600 as well as at low sensitivity settings result in smooth, natural skin tones and exacting detail that, before the D3X, required larger and far costlier studio-bound camera systems.

The Nikon D3X can shoot at up to five fps at full resolution or up to seven fps in DX crop mode, allowing photographers to catch the split-second difference in a model’s expression or capture all of the action in a sequence. The D3X achieves a start-up time of a mere 0.12 seconds and a shutter release time lag of 0.04 seconds.

The D3X’s speed, as well as high levels of performance, leverages Nikon core technologies including a newly enhanced EXPEED™ Image Processing System, specially designed for the D3X to provide superior image quality, faster processing speeds and lower power consumption. This advanced system is said to be able to achieve extremely precise color reproduction for a broad spectrum of hues, in addition to vivid saturation and smooth gradation. What’s more, Nikon’s advanced noise processing function is engineered to minimize noise at all sensitivities and operate seamlessly without interfering with other image color parameters.

The D3X also features Nikon’s exclusive Scene Recognition System, which continuously analyzes information from the 1,005-pixel RGB light sensor, to further refine auto exposure, auto white balance and autofocus calculations. This should result in flattering portraits and awe-inspiring landscapes that portray accurate color and fine details. Nikon's exclusive 3D Color Matrix Metering II helps ensure accurate exposures, even in the most challenging lighting conditions. Instantly evaluating each scene before capture, input data from the system's sensor is automatically referenced against an internal database of more than 30,000 images derived from actual photographs to calculate correct exposure values. Active D-Lighting, used in combination with 3D Matrix Metering II, helps to determines proper exposure, and creates realistic contrast while compensating for lost shadows and highlights. Prior to shooting, users can choose from Extra High, High, Normal, Low or Off settings, as well as an Auto mode.

Additionally, the D3X features Nikon’s exclusive Multi-CAM 3500FX focus module, with 51 AF points, 15 cross type sensors and 36 horizontal sensors that easily track and lock onto moving subjects, delivering the same fast and accurate AF performance that helped make the D3 immediately successful. Users can select any of the AF points, making it easy to consistently attain accurate focus right on a subject’s eyes, frame after frame. Additionally, three AF-area modes – Single point, Dynamic-area AF and Auto-area AF – are available to maximize the use of the 51 focus points by selecting the most suitable one to match subject conditions. AF is also available in one of two Live View modes optimized for the studio, including a phase detection handheld mode and a tripod mode. This feature allows the user to zoom in up to 27x on the LCD screen to ensure critical focus. While in Live View, the graphic indication of a virtual horizon is also available, making it easier than ever to confirm camera orientation.

To further ensure each photographer's ability to balance their personal style, Nikon’s Picture Control System enables users to adjust their images to pre-set parameters such as Standard, Neutral, Vivid and Monochrome that apply tweaks to image sharpening, tone compensation, brightness, overall tone and saturation. Photographers have creative control over these image parameters with the use of up to nine available customizable presets.

Engineered for real-world functionality, the D3X retains a rugged shell with moisture, dust and shock resistance that has become a hallmark of flagship Nikon D-SLRs, while preserving the usability and ergonomics that allow the camera to remain an extension of the photographer’s vision. Attention to detail goes so far as to include a self-diagnostic shutter system that is tested to exceed 300,000 cycles for maximum durability and longevity. The camera’s body also maintains the resilient magnesium alloy construction and form factor of the D3, promoting consistent Nikon system synergy.

A bright and accurate viewfinder offers 100 percent coverage with 0.7x magnification. The body also houses Nikon’s acclaimed 3.0-inch super density LCD screen. The high-resolution 920,000-dot screen is viewable at wide angles up to 170 degrees, and will allow photographers to quickly zoom in to confirm critical focus. Users can also output the video signal to an external display via HDMI to allow client viewing. The D3X can capture up to 4400 shots per single charge of the camera’s Lithium ion battery.

The D3X is fully compatible with Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS) to give photographers a mobile lighting solution that is easy to manage. To further enhance mobility, the D3X is compatible with Nikon’s GP-1 GPS receiver to gather information such as latitude, longitude, altitude and date of shooting. Photographers can easily shoot tethered via USB, or use the WT-4a wireless transmitter to send images wirelessly when speed and mobility are essential. D3X users will also enjoy the system strength of more than 50 genuine NIKKOR lenses that provide outstanding sharpness and high resolution across a broad range of focal lengths.

The Nikon D3X will be available at Nikon Authorized Professional Dealers starting this month for an estimated selling price of $7999.95.
This is a preview, not a review.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Digger's Choice fried clam kit:
for yourself, for a party, or to get lucky

Your humble editor has been cooking and eating clams for many years, but except for a couple of very unsatisfying experiences heating frozen clam strips (think of warm gummy worms), I'd never had fried clams at home before.

A while ago, I received a nice email from Mike Annable of Diggers Choice in Wareham Massachusetts, near Cape Cod. Mike buttered me up with compliments about my WeLoveClams website, and asked if I'd provide a link to the Diggers Choice site.

We get lots of requests for links, and, since the clam website is not my fulltime gig (neither are the blogs), I seldom have time to investigate the requests, and I don't link just anyone. But since Mike said that the folks in his office thought the site was funny; and only a few very enlightened people (not including my wife) appreciate my sense of humor, his request deserved special attention.

Anyway, I went to the Diggers Choice website, and immediately started salivating. I placed an order for a do-it-yourself fried clam kit, and the next morning the UPS driver left a box at my front door, and sped away without ringing the bell. This could have been a tragedy, but my dog barked and I opened the door.

Since I've encountered a lot of lousy fried clams, made by professional cooks in real restaurants, I was not at all optimistic about cooking my own. I'm an OK amateur, but really had no idea what was involved, and doubted that I'd produce anything edible on my first attempt.

The meal was amazing -- way beyond what I expected. I can't say that they're the best fried clams I've ever had, but they're definitely much better than most of the fried clams I've had.

Although our frying oil was of dubious quality, and our kitchen crew had never fried clams before, the amazing freshness of the clams came through. Many restaurants serve frozen clams, or "fresh" clams that have been hanging around for three or four days, after traveling for three or four days. These clams were on the beach on Tuesday, and in our bellies on Wednesday. We could definitely taste the difference.

Another advantage over the pros: In restaurants, your cooked clams can sit around for ten minutes, drying out under the heat lamp until the server brings them to you. If you order a large portion, the second half will be cold before you finish the first half (and cold fried clams suck). When you make your own clams, you cook a small portion (maybe a dozen per person) and eat them while they're hot and juicy. After you finish, it takes just a minute or two to make a second batch, and a third batch, and a fourth batch, and...

Frying clams at home is a great party idea. It's easy, and will provide your guests with a unique experience -- much hipper than fondue or tacos or s'mores. It's fun, too; and you can probably convince guests to cook and clean while you concentrate on eating and drinking.

Also, consider making fried clams with your sweetie for an intimate Valentine's Day dinner. Clams are great aphrodisiacs; and clams and beer are two of the vital food groups necessary for nurturing human brain cells.

Most people have never had really good fried clams, and with next-day delivery of a Diggers Choice Fried Clam Kit, there is no reason to settle for second-rate clams. CLICK for the Diggers Choice website. They're also a great source for delicious lobsters, steaks, oysters, shrimp, scallops and more. If you can't get lucky after serving one of their meals, try a new deodorant!