Quick Product Review – Black+Decker 1.5 cup Rice Cooker

Cooking rice really isn’t difficult but it does require some attention which is something humans are lacking in lately.

The Black + Decker Rice cookers, as I suspect with any rice cooker, takes out the thinking.

I chose this particular model because as a single person, I don’t want to cook a bunch of rice at one time.  This cooker is small so it doesn’t take up a lot of kitchen space and it cooks 1 to 1.5 cups of rice easily.

Use the included measuring cup to measure your rice, add the prescribed amount of water, plug it in and push the cook button.  The cooker appears to use weight to tell when the water has boiled off and switches the device to warm mode to keep your rice warm until the rest of your meal is ready.  Leftover rice can be kept in the removable cooking vessel in the fridge for the next meal.

It’s fast, effective, clean and cheap.  I like it.

For only $15.00, I give this the Black+Decker RC305 Rice cooker a big thumbs up!  Get one at Amazon.




Légère Oboe Reed Review – First Impressions


I was so excited to get my Légère oboe reed in the mail the other day.  I’ve been looking forward to this day for a few years now.  It has taken them a while to prefect it so we’ve all been waiting.  As soon as I got the newsletter that said they were shipping I ordered quickly.  I was a little taken aback at the price.  $149 plus shipping freaked me out but you only live once so, BAM!

The pictures you see in the internet are a little hard for your eyes to comprehend because it is clear and so different from the cane reeds we have been used to.  I read a few warnings about it like problems with the fit into the reed well or being hard to play.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that both were not a problem for me.  It is a “European scrape” reed so my European oboe was apparently a good match.

I was a little concerned about the fact that is “European Scrape” rather then “American Scrape” but I found no difference in how it plays.  Right out of the box it played like a good old friend.  It’s completely synthetic so you don’t need to soak it.  How awesome is that!  No drying out while somebody talks between pieces.  So cool!

It took a little getting used to but it didn’t take long before I was able to get all the notes to speak well.  The sound is not as bright as my cane reeds but I never liked that brightness anyway.  It has a more mellow tone.

I find that I have to do less or no pinching of the reed with my lips for certain notes to play.  With just a little more air pressure than I am used to it plays every note quite confidently.

They say that the Légère reed will “Last for months instead of days.”  I don’t know what kind of person whose reed lasts only for days anyway.  I use a cane reed for at least 4-6 months.  This synthetic reed should be good for years.  I’m not a professional who practices all day so I expect a long life.  It’s hard to imagine that it could wear out anyway.  It’s plastic.

Our Community Band’s Independence Day concert is coming up in a few days.  I wasn’t sure I would be ready to use it so soon but I am feeling quite confident that it’s a go for the concert.


A Few months later…

I’ve been using my Légère oboe reed for a few months now and I love it!  It plays very well once I got used to it.  Not having to soak or adjust it is totally wonderful.  If I had one of these when I was in High School, my life might be totally different today.  Who knows.  I might be some kind of professional oboe celebrity rather than some guy who fought with his reed for decades.

I think I’m in love.  The Légère reed is my favorite thing.  If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

Quick product review – Ryobi One+ hybrid string trimmer

rbistrngtrmrThis morning my old string trimmer started smoking and actually burst into flames while I was using it.  It was pretty cool however now I can’t trim my grass.

I popped over to Home Depot to see what I could find and ran across the Ryobi One+ hybrid string trimmer.  It uses Robi’s standard 18V lithium battery that works in all the One+ line of tools.  The kicker was that it is also a hybrid meaning you can use an extension cord too.  The price was $99.00 so I bought it.

If you already have the battery and charger you can get this trimmer for as low as $29.00.   I already did but the store didn’t offer the trimmer only so I went ahead and bought the set.

Assembly was easy.  All you have to do is attach the guard and the handle.  You only need a phillips head screwdriver.  I put the battery in the charger and gave it some time to charge.

When it was ready, I went outside and tested it out.  I immediately found a few cons:

1.  It is kind of wimpy.  I kind of expect that from a battery powered trimmer so I was not really surprised.  Even though it is wimpy, it is still effective so I’ll let that go.  I plugged in the extension cord and was delighted to see that it was far more powerful running on regular power.  I will probably use the battery most of the time since my trimming is pretty simple.  The convenience of not needing an extension cord kind of make up for the lack of power in battery mode.

2. The string that it comes with is very small.  Unless it is made of really strong plastic I think I will be burning through it pretty quickly.  I’m going to see if I can use thicker string when that time comes.

3. The trimmer seems to feed line out every time you turn it on whether it needs it or not.  You can hear it hitting the blade that trims it to length.  Bad engineering!  Bad!  Unless you are selling trimming string and want people to buy a lot of it.  This pretty much sucks.  Smart designers would make it to where it only feeds line when you tap it on a surface like they used to do.  This was a perfect mechanism that didn’t need to be improved on.

I’m going to keep it anyway.  I think it is good enough and I like the hybrid power thing.  Maybe I can replace the head so it can use better string and not waste it.  I’m not sure I can recommend it to regular people though.

Hey Ryobi.  The next time you build something, run it by me first and I’ll make sure it is engineered correctly.


The Amazing Printer Ink Scam

hghprceFor the most part, I’ve given up printing.  If I need to take something with me, I send the link to my phone or tablet.  No problemo.

Unfortunately there is the occasional need to actually print on paper.  I would have thought that would be as out of style as the CD but I see full pages of printers for sale in the Sunday advertisements.  I guess it is still a thing.

I have an old HP Deskjet 930C that someone gave me a few years ago.  The ink cartridges it came with lasted a very long time and gave me good quality prints.  I definitely got my money’s worth on that deal.  Eventually the color ran out and I just printed in B&W.  Now that black is gone too.  I guess it’s time to get some more.

I went to amazon.com to search for new cartridges and was blown away to see that the price for one black ink and one color ink cartridge would cost almost $70.00 plus shipping.  That’s not going to happen.  Have they lost their minds?  It’s just ink. Apparently it is only available freshly squeezed from martian squids.

So what kind of scam are we looking at here?  The best price I could find was $24.00 for the Black cartridge containing 42ml of ink.  Let’s assume the cost for the plastic cartridge is about $5.00.  That means 42ml of ink costs $19.00.   That would mean a gallon of this precious liquid costs $1712.00.    A gallon of gasoline only costs $2.00 right now.  Hmmmmm.  A 55 gallon drum would cost $94,160.   My house is barely worth that.  A barrel of oil is only $59.45.  Sometimes as high as $125.

So what kind of rare earth elements are in this amazing elixir?  Lets’s Google….
Wikipedia says inkjet printer ink is made of water, glycol, dyes and pigments.
These are not expensive chemicals.

So what is going on here?   SCAM!!!!  Why do we allow it?  Isn’t there some kind of government regulatory program to prevent consumers from being ripped off?  If there is then they should look in to the drug scam too.  I guess Big Ink has a good lobbying program.

I ended up just not being able to get myself to throw away that much money on something that should not cost that much.  I went with remanufactured cartridges for half the price and am expecting to have quality issues due to head clogging.  I’m hoping that won’t be a big issue since I don’t print that much.

This whole thing is an amazing scam.  I’m in the wrong business.

It’s just so wrong!  I can’t stand it!

Quick Product Review – Wagner Smart Roller makes painting easier.

wsmThis is really cool when you have to paint large areas.  I had one before and bought another so I could paint the outside of my house.  I had an old airless sprayer but it is amazingly noisy and overspray gets everywhere.

The Wagner Smart Roller is really awesome because it basically sucks up paint from the bucket and stores it in the handle.  All you have to do is squeeze the trigger to pump paint into the roller.

That’s great if you have to go up and down a ladder over and over.  It will really cut down on trips.  Even if you aren’t using a ladder, it still makes painting far easier and less messy.

Best of all.  It is really cheap compared to a sprayer.  At only $24.97 it’s a steal. Clean it well when you are done and it will last forever.

Get one on Amazon.com.

Quick Product Review – Oscar Mayer Carving Board Turkey Breast

omcvtIt is not often that I am impressed by packaged food but I happened upon this one by accident and must say something.

In a world of processed and sliced meats it is nice to find what appears to be actual slices of turkey breast in a box.  Processed lunch meats were once real meat before being finely ground and mixed into a paste to which all kinds of chemicals are added.  Finally congealed and sliced into slimy, paper-thin, flappy wafers of questionable content.


I didn’t break out my magnifying glass or microscope but Oscar Mayer’s Carving Board Turkey looks to be actual meat sliced right from the bird.  The texture is far better than regular processed meats. A close visual inspection indicates the grain of the muscle and the edge still has the skin or at least the baked surface.

I will be adding this product to my regular purchase list.  Hooray for real food!


I just learned that this and most lunch meats contain sodium nitrite.  It’s a poison used to kill wild hogs and is used in small amounts to quickly cure and preserve deli meat.  Pretty much everything we eat these days is going to kill us but eating poison voluntarily doesn’t seem like a good idea.  We can’t avoid eating all lunchmeat But I’m going to attempt to cook my own chicken and slice it for sandwiches rather than using processed foods.

Get my new book, “Lonely Man Dinners” on Amazon.com.


Calibrating the Samsung UN65FH6001

UN65FH6001FXZAThe Samsung UN65FH6001 TV  was a great deal at Best Buy for $999.  Pretty good for a 65 inch TV.  It is basically the same as the 6002, and 6003 models and the EH models.

It has a damn good picture for a cheaper model TV.  What makes it cheaper?  It doesn’t have all the “smart” stuff that nobody needs anyway.  My Blu-Ray player and WDTV Live already have all that.  What I wanted was a good HD monitor and the UN65HF6001 fits perfectly in the quality and price range.

This TV seems to be very energy efficient.  I measure Zero watts when it is off and only 64 Watts when on.  That’s pretty amazing for such a large screen. It gives off virtually no heat.

Like most other TVs it needs to be properly calibrated for the best picture.  I used a calibration DVD and blue filter to tweak the settings.  You can just plug in my numbers into your TV and get a pretty good picture.

I’ve had the TV now for about 4 months and have spent a lot of time adjusting it for proper color reproduction and a pleasing look to the eye.  Here’s what I have come up with:

Updated 4-16-2014

Mode: Movie
Backlight: 20
Contrast: 100
Brightness:  50
Sharpness: 50
Color: 60
Tint(G/R): G42 /R58


Color Space: Native
Gamma: +2
Dynamic Contrast: Off
Black Tone: Off
Flesh Tone: +5


R-Offset: 27
G-Offset: 25
B-Offset: 28
R-Gain: 18
G-Gain: 24
B-Gain: 21


Color Tone: Warm1
Size: Screen Fit
Digital Noise Filter: Off
HDMI Black Level: Normal
Film Mode: Off
Auto Motion Plus: Clear
LED Motion Plus: On


Each Mode: Standard, Movie, and Dynamic have their own settings.  You will have to tweak each one if you plan on using more than one.  Set your numbers in Movie  mode and leave it.

I will update this page as I continue to tweak the set.  Bookmark it and check back often for the latest numbers.

If you would like to calibrate your TV yourself all you need is  a calibration disk like Spears and Munsil available on Amazon.com for 30 bucks.  If you are more serious you can get a calibration system like the Datacolor Spyder for $124.  You could of course have a professional come calibrate it but that would cost you as much as the TV.  The disk or the spyder will do a good enough job to get you 90% to a perfect picture.