Articles in section: 'General'

Koss PortaPro Headphones

Review of Koss PortaPro HeadphonesThe other day we did a review of the SanDisk Sansa Clip MP3 player, which seemed a solid choice for the frugal consumer. A necessary accessory is clearly a pair of headphones or ear-buds or such. So here’s a brief look at one option, namely the Koss PortaPro headphones. They are listed at $50 but at the time of writing sell for $39.99 on Amazon.

They’ve been around a long time and seem to be quite popular. Their advocates maintain that the Koss PortaPros are a nice, affordable and portable alternative to high-end headphones. They are said to have a frequency response of 15 to 25,000 Hz. If that means a lot to you, so be it. I’m not going to belabor the technical issues. Is the sound significantly better than the $10 earphones I was using before, which I picked up somewhere I can’t remember? I cannot really assert that it is, to me. In my experience one tends to hear things pretty darned clearly through headphones or earphones that are working properly, just so long as there is not excessive ambient or background noise. (The Koss PortaPro headphones are not the noise-cancelling variety.) The chief difference I’ve found with the Koss PortaPros is instead in the area of comfort. They are well designed in this regard. I have a very large head (as you might well imagine) but these expand to fit comfortably and easily. A key comfort feature is the small cushion on each side which rests above the ears, thus reducing the pressure of the cushioned ear plates. The ear plates also pivot. So, after putting them on and adjusting them for comfort, they are very unlikely to annoy you at all, as opposed to those ear-bud things which can chafe after a short while. The metal band which goes over your head might be noticeable or might catch your hair when you’re removing it, but I suppose that’s a trade-off for portability. [Read more →]

SanDisk Sansa Clip MP3 Player (4GB)

Review of SanDisk Sansa Clip Music PlayerI’m not a heavy user of portable music players. I like to listen to music the old-fashioned way: at home, in front of the speakers of my stereo system, not only hearing the music but feeling its vibrations through the floor and the air. Short of hearing it live, this seems like the most natural way of listening to music. However, when traveling or when out and about for long periods, it is certainly nice to be able to bring along some music to make the time go more pleasantly. Until recently, this occasional need was satisfied by an old Creative Zen V Plus 2GB MP3 player. It accompanied my wife and me on various trips for years, but lately has been erratically refusing to play when called upon to do so. It was time to send it to the farm where they keep the old carriage horses and those turkeys spared by presidents through the ages.

My criteria for a replacement MP3 player were simple: it needed to be low-cost and reliable. I’m not an Apple aficionado, and an iPod would be a case of extreme over-buying for my needs. I wanted something under $50. The “SanDisk Sansa Clip+” player which I settled upon is listed at $49.99 but can currently be found on Amazonfor $34.95, and perhaps even less elsewhere.

The model I purchased has a 4GB capacity. It surprised me that this was only twice as much capacity as the old Creative Zen, considering how such things have changed in the computing world, but when I received it and saw that it was also less than half the size of that old player, this made more sense. It is 2 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide, and about as small as such a player could be and still have a readable screen and manageable controls. Anyhow, 4GB is plenty for my own purposes. For those who care to do so, SanDisk microSD or microSDHC cards can be utilized to expand the capacity by many gigabytes. It is also designed to accept a “slotRadio” card, the nature of which interests me not a bit. [Read more →]

Eware (Wind Chaser) 1.4L Ultrasonic Humidifier

Review of E-Ware 1.4L Ultrasonic HumidifierIt’s just possible that I have recently stumbled upon the explanation for the age-old mystery of “spontaneous combustion.” That’s the alleged phenomenon whereby a living thing—including most notably a human being—suddenly bursts into flames for no apparent reason. I was in bed, and our small dog was lying near the bottom of the bed, atop the bedspread, as is her wont. Her precise position was less than ideal in relation to my feet and she needed to be shifted a little bit. I have become adept at sliding her over a few inches without unduly disturbing her; or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that she has become adept at ignoring the fact that she is being slid over, thus allowing me to do it. It was completely dark in the room. I placed my hands on either side of her curled up body and gently began shifting her over. It was then that I noticed distinct if small flashes of light emanating from her body. It took me a few moments to take in what I was witnessing and to arrive at a conclusion as to what was taking place. I realized that these flashes of light could only be sparks, caused by static electricity. The heat had been on steadily in our apartment for some weeks, and I had already noticed that everything seemed pretty dried out. I’d gotten some static electric shocks myself, and the dry air was affecting my nasal passages and such. Still, this was another level of seriousness, surely; that is, the possibility that my dog might burst into flames upon my bed.

I took it as a signal that perhaps it was time to get a humidifier. [Read more →]

“Revisionist Art” by Bob Dylan at the Gagosian Gallery in New York

Review of Revisionist Art by Bob Dylan at Gagosian“Revisionist Art: Thirty Works by Bob Dylan” is on show at New York City’s Gagosian Gallery. It was unveiled last Wednesday and runs, God willing, until January 12th, 2013. I was slightly surprised to hear that Dylan was having another show at the Gagosian. It was little more than a year ago that they hosted his “Asia Series,” which visitors were led to believe had sprung from his time spent traveling in Asia, but turned out to be sourced directly from a bunch of old photographs (taken by other people). I thought at the time that this might be a little embarrassing for the gallery. But, I guess it’s true what they say: There’s no such thing as bad publicity. And, indeed, I think that old adage would make a pretty good subtitle for the current exhibition, a display of thirty re-imagined American magazine covers which is part burlesque show and part horror show, with the lines pretty blurry between the two.

In addition, it is quite comic. At least, the missus and I did our fair share of chuckling as we perused the thirty silkscreen-on-canvas creations. The handful of other visitors who were there at the time seemed considerably more somber and I hope we didn’t spoil their visit with our giggles.

BabyTalk by Bob Dylan at the Gagosian GalleryThe two images being used to promote the show—”BabyTalk” and “Playboy”—are quite typical of what you’ll see if you visit. Is it high art, or is it just humor somewhere on the level of “MAD” magazine? (That’s one magazine cover which is not featured, by the way.) I would say more the latter than the former, but I have neither the credentials nor the motivation to make a definite determination. One thing did occur to me: Whatever these things look like now, they will be quite a bit more interesting if they are exhibited one or two hundred years from now, as a visual commentary of sorts on America from about 1960 to 2012 by the late, great figure of that time, Bob Dylan. (Though that still doesn’t mean they are necessarily great art.)

And I’m not an art critic. Different people will take different things from looking at these works. (How often does an art critic say something like that?) But some of the things that struck me are as follows.

The photos of the women on these magazine covers run from lascivious to pornographic. Male faces and figures are usually battered and covered in blood. Sex and violence is the basic consumer product being highlighted. The porn-flick and the Colosseum. (Even the hoity-toity “Philosophy Today” features a nude woman, albeit a little more classical-looking.) The text of the various headlines then reads like a hierarchy of consumer interest: vanity, gossip, conflict, and a little something cultural or intellectual tossed in like salt and pepper. The names of politicians, celebrities and the references to events in the news (notably wars) are interchangeable and bear no relation to the dates on the magazine covers, conveying a sense of there being a continuum of all the same kinds of stuff repackaged and resold over and over again. [Read more →]

Acer Aspire Laptop Computer

This is a review of (and a meditation inspired by) the Acer Aspire 5733Z-4816notebook computer.

Acer Aspire laptop computerI like to tell myself that I make my computers earn their purchase price, and then some. My chief working computer for nearly the past six years has been a Dell Vostro laptop. When I bought it (if I’m not mistaken) George W. Bush was in the White House and Dennis Hastert was still Speaker of the House. (“You don’t say, Grandpa! And the wolves in Wales?”) I never upgraded the operating system from XP or even boosted the 1 GB RAM with which it came. The machine served me very well, frankly. Any significant problems I had while using it were always software-based. Until, that is, the most recent problem, when it abruptly shut off while I was doing nothing in particular. It just went “pfft,” like an old TV set being turned off. It wouldn’t go back on, then, but it did some hours later, as if nothing had happened. Still, I had to believe that the old boy was telling me to prepare for the day when he just wouldn’t be able to spin that hard disk anymore. It was clearly time.

I’ve used Dell personal computers for a long, long time, and similarly have never had a major complaint about the hardware. That’s why I’ve kept using them. If it works, why mess around? (You might call it the essence of the conservative ethos.) However, times and circumstances change no matter how you might try to keep them static. Money being an issue, it seemed like a wise juncture at which to see if more could be had at my preferred-price-point from a different manufacturer.

I eventually concluded that this was indeed the case. Looking at the lowest priced 15.6″ laptops, Acer seemed to be offering the most bang for the buck, and getting (generally) favorable reviews while doing it. I could get a 2.13 GHz (Pentium) machine with 4 GB of RAM from Acer for significantly less than a machine with those same properties would cost from Dell. So, in the end, that is what I did. [Read more →]

The RCA RP5435 AM/FM Clock Radio: A Timeless Tale

RCA clock radioI purchased the RCA RP5435 AM/FM Clock Radio with an extra-large 1.4-inch display yesterday. And yes, I did it because (without my glasses on) I am virtually blind, at least when it comes to objects at a distance. I did not buy this clock radio for the various sexy selling points described on the box, such as the automatic time-set (which just means it’s preset at the factory, by the way), or the audio input for an mp3 player (I like waking up to the news headlines; I guess getting angry and disgusted helps me get out of bed), or the “programmable snooze & sleep” (I can’t imagine a single circumstance where I’d want to use that). I bought it because I wanted a clock radio with big numbers that I could easily see when I wake up in the middle of the night.

The thing is, if you wake up in the middle of the night and have to really strain your eyes or move some distance to read the clock (let alone put your glasses on), then it’s that much less likely you’re going to get back to sleep with any ease. Yet, the one thing I most want to know when I stir at night is: “What time is it? How many more hours do I have left to sleep?” I’m certain that I am far from alone in this. It’s such a heavenly pleasure to discover that you still have most of the night ahead, especially if you feel that you’ve already been sleeping a long time. It is of-course highly demoralizing to discover that only about an hour remains, especially if you feel totally wrecked. But these things must be faced, and the desire to face them is evidence of the deep and unalterable human yearning for truth. [Read more →]

PAWZ: Rubber Boots for Dogs

Billie wearing PAWZ bootsIt’s a dog’s life. That expression was originally coined and used to characterize a life of misery (where you might be treated like a dog, get sick as a dog, and die like a dog). In more contemporary times it’s often heard and used in exactly the opposite sense, that of a dog’s life as one of carefree laziness, with every want fulfilled. Since dogs have, in many societies, gone from working beasts thrown scraps to pampered pets who shop at canine boutiques, it’s not hard to understand how the expression has garnered its new meaning. [Read more →]

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