LEAVE, and don’t come back

This blog is defunct.  We’ve moved to: http://www.1to10reviews.com

I switched from WordPress.com (which is a wonderful place to write a blog) to a self-hosted blog.  I am still using WordPress, but I got the install package for WordPress 2.6.

Thanks for visiting – please come see us at our new home.

12seconds.tv launches in alpha

My Review: I am not issuing a review score due to conflict of interest.

Let me disclaim in no uncertain terms that this site was started by some very close friends of mine, and I am personally involved as well.  I mean for this post to be informational.  I want both of my readers to know about 12seconds.

As you will see from their blog post, 12seconds.tv is launching their public alpha today.

12seconds is the brainchild of some friends in Santa Cruz who love the web, love technology, love twitter, love their iPhones, and can’t help but start company after company.  This is serial entrepreneurship at its best.  The basic idea behind 12seconds is video status, being able to record and share little moments from your life.  Use a webcam or cell phone you can record videos up to twelve seconds long.  That’s it.

You can link your videos to your Twitter account, so anyone who follows you there can receive will receive videos through your Twitter feed.  Friends can also visit your 12seconds page directly, or subscribe to your 12seconds RSS feed. You do NOT have to be a member of the site in order to watch other people’s videos. Request an invitation to join the site here.

This idea is a cool one, especially if you have a cell phone that records video. It’s easy to imagine being out at a bar with friends, out on the street where you see something funny, or at a Bar Mitzvah during the Haftorah service and wanting to publish the moment and share it with friends. What if you’re on vacation at the grand canyon and standing over that crazy skywalk platform? What a cool moment to share with friends and loved ones.  Here’s a link to my 12seconds channelHere’s Jeremy’s channel.


This is also posted at: LIVEdigitally

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: What About Percy’s Mom?

My Review:5

Warning: SPOILER ALERT

Rick Riordan is an author of both adult and teen-oriented books. He has series targeted at teens that focuses on one boy, Perseus (Percy) Jackson.  Percy is the son of Sally Jackson, a mortal woman, and the son of Poseidon, the Greek God of the Sea from ancient mythology.  In the series, the Greek gods are not myths at all, but a vibrant and lively part of Western Civilization.  Along with Poseidon, Zeus, Athena, Hephaestus and the rest of the crew come a host of monsters and mayhem including (but not limited to) the Minotaur, Medusa, the Furies, prophecies, quests, adventure, sword fighting, revenge and true love.  Sounds like the Princess Bride as described by Peter Falk.  :)

In any case, I am not here to review the books themselves.  I love them, I think they’re grand.  They fall into a similar genre as J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and Chris Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, also books I enjoy thoroughly and unequivocally.  I’m a geek boy for sci-fi, fantasy, mythology, and the “weird.”

No, in this review, I am getting specific.  In fact, it would be more accurate to say that I am making a prediction, a prediction about Percy’s mom, Sally Jackson (as you might have guessed from the title of this post).  That prediction is: I think she is a half-blood (half god and half human) herself.  That would, in fact, make Percy 3/4 god, instead of the normal half god, or demigod.  Here’s my thinking:

  • Her eyes change color depending on the light
  • She can see through mist (something that keeps most mortals from seeing monsters, gods, and the rest of the weirdness)
  • In Book 1, The Lightning Thief, Sally isn’t killed when the Minotaur picks her up by the neck, but is captured and spirited away by Hades in a shower of golden light.  Maybe Hades could do that to a mortal, but still…
  • I think we need something to make Percy even more special, and that would do it
  • plus, it would make an interesting plot twist.  I don’t remember reading any myths about humans who had a god for a grandparent and a parent

I know this post is probably uninteresting to those who haven’t read these books.  Even if you have, maybe this degree of analysis seems like a waste of time.  Don’t care.  I think it’s neat, and I am calling it now.  Maybe in the end I’ll be proven wrong.  But I think Sally Jackson is herself a half-blood.  You heard it here first.  I’ll let you know the results when the series ends.

Oh, and by the way.  The reason I gave this review a 5 has nothing to do with how much I like the books.  I think they’re great.  I gave it a 5 because I’m making a WAG (wild ass guess) and I figure I have a 50/50 chance.  Twisted logic, but if you read this far, you’re probably right there with me.  :)

Sad Songs and Waltzes

My Review: 9

I love this song.  It’s funny, it’s poignant, it’s well written.  It’s written in 3/4 time and played as though it were a waltz itself.  I just think it’s brilliant.  Willie Nelson wrote it and published it first on his concept album “Shotgun Willie” in 1973, one of his very best albums in my opinion.  Cake covered it on their 1996 album Fashion Nugget, also an amazing album.

I really like both versions.  I’m running a poll to see which version people like better.

You can listen to the Cake version here.  You can listen to the Willie Nelson version here.   You can also listen to each in the Box.net widget on the right side.  The album art below links to Amazon’s MP3 store.  If you don’t own these albums already, you should buy them.

Dallas Airport: Keep your laptop in your bag

My Review: 10

I’m at the airport in Dallas, Texas.  Ordinarily I would find that depressing, but I have two reasons to celebrate.  1.) I am on my way to Cozumel, Mexico for a scuba vacation.  And 2.) they have the coolest x-ray machine of all time:

According to the security lady, this is one of only two such machines in the country.  What’s so special about thiese?  You can leave your laptop in your bag.  You don’t need three different little plastic bins.  You don’t need to juggle your backpack, carry-on, laptop and other junk with tired, sweaty people glaring at you for wasting their time.  You still have to take off your shoes, but let’s not be greedy.  This is a good start.

It was shocking to see the sign say: “Please Read >>  keep these items in your bag…”  And there’s a picture of a computer.  Holy mackerel.  That is rad. 

I like having my computer with me, and this process makes it even more pleasent.  I hate flying, so anything that makes the process simpler is something I cherish and appreciate.  For this reason alone, I am now a fan of Dallas International Airport.  And this killer new x-ray machine gets a 10 out of 10.  El yay.

Chris Penn – My Review

My Review: 7

I’m keeping this post short and silly.  I think that’ s my strong suit anyway.  I was recently thinking about Chris Penn, and how much I miss him.  Not like we were friends or anything, but I think he was great.  I was watching an episode of Entourage recently (I think from season 2) and Chris had a cameo, boxing with Johnny Drama.   I think it was some of the last work he did. 

In my opinion, he was a phenomenally strong actor, woefully underrated, and especially excellent in character roles.  He was known best for his roles in 80′s classic Footloose, and for his role as an under-boss, Nice Guy Eddie, in Reservoir Dogs. But my favorite role for Chris was in Best of the Best, the cheese-filled 90′s karate movie with Eric Roberts and James Earl Jones. 

Chris was the younger brother of the much more famous Sean Penn, though I always liked Chris a lot more, not least because Sean Penn is kind of a douche.  There’s lots more information about Chris Penn available on IMDB, and on Wikipedia.

I froze.

My Review: 1

I froze. How totally, terribly, embarrassing.  Don’t let this happen to you.

more about “I froze.“, posted with vodpod

Think about what you’re going to say before the camera starts rolling.  For this, I get a 1 out of 10.

Otterbox Armor Series (for the iPhone)

My Review: 8

It looks like the Humvee of iPhone cases:

This thing is a brick.  A giant, yellow brick.  As I was testing it out for the day, a number of people made fun of me.  But I told them what I’m about to tell you.

This case is not intended for everyday carry.  It’s bulky, heavy, and clunky because it’s meant to withstand a hailstorm while being driven over by a tank.  (If the ground underneath it were sufficiently squishy, I think it just might survive the aforementioned tank rollover.)

The purpose of this case is to be waterproof, shockproof, dropproof, and ass-kicking proof. It is not elegant or sophisticated.  But it will withstand a nuclear bomb blast.

The o-ring seals well and tightly.  Water spilled onto it from a faucet tap at full blast never penetrated the interior, and no condensation or moisture built up inside the case.  I might not want to go SCUBA diving with it, but in rain or brief submersion, I would be totally comfortable.   All major functions except for one are accessible in this case, that one being the silent/vibrate toggle.  It is not too difficult to hear or be heard when talking through the case, and the touch-screen is very responsive.  I’d put it at 90% of normal sensitivity, even though your using it through the plastic, waterproof membrane.

I have only two major complaints, and the second one is unreasonable.

Complaint #1: The steep edges of the case where it borders the touch screen can make it difficult to type.  I often mis-hit keys when typing an email, SMS, or website address as a result.  No bueno.

Complaint #2: This is the unreasonable one.  I’ve just found out that this case will not be compatible with the new iPhone.  Of course, there’s no way that OB could have built this for the 3G iPhone, the specs did not exist.  But it’s a bummer.

I did not let complaint #2 affect my review score.  For what this case is, for what it’s meant to be, it does a a great job, and is fully worth an 8 out of 10.  If you are looking for a svelte, stylish case, look elsewhere.  If you are looking for a case that will let you bring your iPhone into a wet week in the jungles of Madagascar, this is your case.

You can purchase them here, directly from Otterbox.  At $70, if you want a waterprrof case that lets you retain almost all the functionality, this is a great purchase.  And I’ve been assure that they will have an Armor-series case for the 3G iPhone when it becomes available.

Blinded By The Light. The real one.

My Review: 10

I love Bruce Springsteen.  And this song, I think, is nothing short of brilliant.  Please listen to it in my Box.net widget in the side bar.

First of all, let me say one thing.  Douche is not part of this song.

Bruce wrote this song in the early seventies, and it was first recorded on his album Greetings From Asbury Park N.J. in 1973.  It did not achieve broad commercial success.

Manfred Mann recorded the song in 1977, and that reached #1 on the pop charts (according to Wikipedia, “…Manfred Mann’s Earth Band recording of “Blinded by the Light” is still Springsteen’s only Number 1 single as a songwriter on the Hot 100.”

I think the writing and poetry in this song is tremendous.  The lyrics are outlandish and silly in a nearly Shel Silverstein-esque manner (Shel didn’t just write “Where the Sidewalk Ends” you know, he also penned “Boy Named Sue” [Johnny Cash] and “Cover of a Rolling Stone” [Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show.] among others.) Bruce’s lyrics are fanciful, fun and fantastic (in the “way out there” sense.)  They are evocative and as close to poetry as anything Bruce has written.  To me, this kind of writing puts him in the same class as Dylan and Simon.

I also love Bruce’s rendition of the song.  His vocals are at their scratchy best, and the musicianship is raw.  Powerful, and raw.

I can (and have) listened to this song on repeat, over and over again.  It leaves me happy, sad, curious, mystified, and sometimes a little maudlin.  Not really sure why.  But it’s evocative, and strong.  For me, this song is a solid 10 out of 10.  Not just because I love Bruce (which, as I said, I do) and not just becasue the lyrics are poetic and zany (which they are.)  This song is a 10 because it symbolizes freedom for me, every  single  time I listen to it.  It’s about the open road, about America, about living your life and be damned to the consequences.  This song kicks ass.

Afterthought:

Oh, and in case I wasn’t clear before, let me be abundantly so now.  I think Bruce’s version is infinitely superior to Manfre Mann’s.  Manfred Mann IS a douche.

SteepandCheap Reviewed

My Review: 7

Steepandcheap.com is a website dedicated to offering super rad discounts on cool outdoor gear.  My expert internet sleuth Allison found this one.  The copyright on their “About” page says 2003-2004, but I am only seeing the site now.  They are “powered by” Backcountry.com.  I suspect they had a different format previously.  The guys at Chainlove (another BC.com site) posted something about this a couple months back.

Their tagline says: “One killer gear deal, one item at a time until it’s gone.”  I can’t argue, the deals so far have been killer.  Everything I’ve seen advertised is far below MSRP.  I picked up a Timbuk2 backpack yesterday that looked pretty nifty, at what seemed like a screaming price.  The signup and checkout process took me all of 35 seconds, which was great.  I was definitely impressed with the purchase and account UI.

They are also doing some pretty cool viral marketing, surprisingly nifty web apps that most traditional retailers don’t really get yet.  They offer a RSS alert system, and they allow you to share deals with friends not only via email, but on Facebookas well.  They show ads on the page, but they may as well squeeze every nickel that they can, especially since their margins can’t be high with discounts this steep.

The whole “one item till it’s gone” thing adds a definite sense of pressure and urgency to the system, and doubtless that’s why they do it.  It has an auction feel (a la Ebay) and also reminds me of Jellyfish’s Smack Deal of the day.  The difference here is that Steepandcheap doesn’t indicate how much time you have left, or how many items are available.  You are guessing until it’s gone.  But, the price doesn’t change either.  It is what it is.  It’s a GREAT deal on gear that sells until they’re sold out.  Artificially creating scarcity-based urgency is just good business.  My guess is that the items being sold are remaindered, unsold stock from Backcountry.

So why did I only give them a 7 out of 10 review?  Couple of reasons. For one, there’s no Paypal payment option.  I would like it better if there were.  And the RSS feeds, though really cool, seem to update slowly.  At the moment the most recent item in their feed (on my google reader) is the 4FRNT snow skis, and it says that it’s from 58 minutes ago.  That’s not the item currently on the site (A Merrell women’s jacket.)  In fact, it’s more than two items ago, because there was a watch on the site before the jacket came up.  RSS should be nearly real-time, and that’s important with a time-limited “buy till we sell out” mentality.

Also, and this is big deal, their pricing is inconsistent.  The backpack I bought was the Timbuk2 Track, and the listed MSRP on their site is $90.  SteepandCheap’s price was $44.38.  Any way you slice it that’s a great deal.  But the MSRP they listed during the sale was $150.00.  1/3 of the retail price sounds a LOT better than 1/2 of the retail price.  Truthfully, I did make an impulse buy based on the perception of scarcity without doing my research in advance.  I’m ok with that.  But I want them to play fair, and show the right prices.  I sent a question into customer service, see their answer down below.

The site is “powered by” Backcountry.com, a longtime online outdoor gear retailer, and winner of numerous online-shopping accolades.  Their internal blog, The Goat, has numerous references to the site starting as far back as December 2006.  I think they’re offering a potentially great service with Steepandcheap, and it is now on my regular stop-by list of shopping sites.  But I’d feel a lot better about doing business with them if I knew the prices were going to always be correct and consistent – I now feel suspicious about their offers.  Time will tell I suppose.   And no matter what, that RSS issue has got to get fixed.  For now, they get a 7 out of 10, even with killer prices.

———————————————————————————-

Here’s my question and their answer from their customer service rep:

Question:

Hi There,

I bought a Timbuk2 Track bag from you yesterday.  The suggested MSRP on your site
was $150, and you were selling it for $44.38. It sounded like a great deal, and I wasn’t
sure how long it would last, so I bought one on the spot.

Afterward, checking out the Timbuk2 site, I noticed that the packs are listed at $90 MSRP.

I still think I got a great deal, but it seems dishonest to post a higher MSRP than the
manufacturer really suggests.  If that was intentional, it artificially inflates the
discount you’re offering, and that seems wrong.  I’m not accusing, I’d just like some
clarification.  Why was the MSRP listed so much higher than what’s shown on the
manufacturers site?

Thanks,
David

Response:

Hi David,

Thanks for contacting us at Steepandcheap.com.

I do see the confusion, there has been many different versions of this pack, with very little physical differences and through the waves of shipments from Timbuk2 prices have changed.  The Black/ Black/ Black posted on SAC was purchased at a higher wholesale price than the packs posted on backcountry.com now.  MSRP had not been skewed to pump our number, but was actually $149.95.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please feel free to let us know. Have a great day— we can’t wait to serve you up another killer deal at Steepandcheap.com.

Sincerely,

XXXXXXXX
Steepandcheap Gearhead

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