Earlier this month when Amazon announced that they were releasing a new addition to the Kindle lineup current owners were worried rather than excited. Never before have I seen a group of owners so rapidly insisting that their devices were perfect the way they were.Read More
In August of last year a group of former Holga camera employees from Hong Kong decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to launch a digital version of the beloved asian toy camera. The original Holga debuted in 1982, and has since become a favorite of many artists due to the lack of complexity and flexibility. Their goal was to get the $50,000 dollars needed to begin production, but demand was so great that they exceeded that goal in just 4 days. Ultimately the project exceeded $300,000 and more than 2500 backers during the 60 days it was active on Kickstarter and they continue to get orders via Indiegogo here.
The camera is as low tech as a digital camera can get, owing very much to its roots as a toy camera. With a manual shutter lever, exposure time is as flexible as possible and hard to gauge. In addition, the only selections possible are a switch on the bottom to toggle between BW and Color modes, and the power dial on top allowing you to select between simulating 135 or 120 film. You additionally have the option of attaching the flash or not via the hot shoe on top. Everything else is done by feel and experience alone. As you can see from the sample images below even with very little automatic control the camera provides decent quality and good dynamic range.
The second camera I received is the Lytro Illum, an extremely advanced camera using what is called Light Field imaging to capture all of the available light in each pixel. This not only provides superior dynamic range, but allows for what Lytro calls "living pictures" because by capturing all of the light in the lenses field of view you have the ability to change the depth of field and point of focus after acquiring the image data. In addition, the technology allows the camera to export 3D images. With manual focus, 8x optical zoom, and dynamic range equivalent to 80-3200ISO it is perhaps the most advanced still camera ever built with a single lens.
As you can see from the linked pictures below, you can share images that the viewer can choose a point of focus in on demand, a feature unique to Light Field technology. At an MSRP of $1300 this is an amazingly expensive camera, but incredibly fun to use. If it could shoot video as well it could be the perfect all around camera. Fortunately, Lytro has moved on to trying to change cinematography and as result the camera can be found on Amazon for $387 dollars from some vendors.
Last year when music gear giant Marshall announced their first line of headphones music lovers took notice in a big way, and weren't disappointed by the quality of either the construction or the sound. This year they announced that they were going to release a Bluetooth wireless version of the same Major design and I knew I had to give them a try.Read More
The one accessory we wear to make a statement is a wristwatch. Sometimes flashy if dressed up, sometimes monolithic and durable if worn daily for work. We wear different types of bands to match clothing or environment. So I guess it isn't surprising that one of the biggest categories of new Kickstarter projects is companies trying to reinvent something that was invented in the 1800s.Read More
When my buddy Keith asked if I wanted to get together to catch up on life this week I started thinking about what whiskey I was going to take with me. When the forecast called for a dry warm spring evening (rare here in Oregon) I knew we would be sitting around the fire.
I decided on two different whiskeys, one that I had tasted but never reviewed and a new and exciting single malt that says fire pit and barbecue the minute you taste it. I.W. Harper is an old brand recently relaunched after being pulled from the shelves of U.S. stores in 1980 when Bourbon was losing popularity to scotch and other liquors to preserve it's brand identity in Japan. Once the most famous bourbon in the world, by 1966 it was available in 110 countries and the best selling bourbon worldwide, becoming immortalized as the drink of 007 in Ian Fleming's 1963 novel "In Her Majesty's Secret Service". 35 years later I.W. Harper is back, and once again being distilled at the old Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, KY. In contrast we have the Colkegan from Sante Fe Spirits in Sante Fe, NM. Sante Fe Spirits has a unique process, and it's best to use the information from their website to describe it:
"Like its Scottish single malt cousins, Santa Fe Spirits’ Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey is made entirely from malted barley, carefully distilled, and aged and finished in various oak casks to enhance the complex flavors inherent to true single malt whiskey. But there are key differences that set this remarkable spirit apart from its Scottish relatives.
While peat-smoked malt has always been a key ingredient in many well known Scotch whiskies, Santa Fe Spirits’ Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey’s wonderfully complex flavor profile benefits from a very different type of smoked malt utilized by no other distillery in the world. The result is a smooth, mellow, mysteriously balanced hint of smoky complexity unique to Santa Fe Spirits.
Santa Fe Spirits’ Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey’s unique barrel aging process also separates it from its low-altitude relatives. Santa Fe Spirits is located 7,000 feet above sea level in the high desert and utilizes a climate-controlled barrel warehouse with temperatures ranging from freezing cold to swelteringly hot, and humidities ranging from bone dry to unbelievably damp. A strict regimen of climate changes yields a spirit with amazing complexity unrivaled by more temperate warehouses."
The I.W. Harper is a full bodied and complex whiskey. The nose is sweet, with strong notes of caramel and honey. It starts with that same sweetness on the front of the palate, followed quickly by a faint leather and wood flavor, finishing smoothly in sweet honey and green grass bordering on citrus. A wonderful whiskey to sip any time, and a quick hit with everyone tasting this night.
The Colkegan is an interesting taste. On the nose it is remarkably sweet. Caramel and almost butterscotch tempt you to taste. Once you do you are quickly surprised by the unique smoke that sets Sante Fe's process apart: rather than smoking the malted barley with peat they use what is available in the desert southwest, mesquite. The amazingly full flavored smokiness of the whiskey dominates, and quickly fades leaving a vague sweet honey aftertaste that you never fully taste on the palate. This is the perfect whisky to sip in front of the fireplace or even better around the campfire on a summer night.
The folks at Caskers.com came through again, and I look forward to more time with friends sitting around and sipping great whiskey.
I received a box that I wasn't expecting from Amazon this morning, and opened it to find three new Bluetooth headsets inside. One of them, the Mini from Rowkin I have been wanting to check out since it was announced, but the other two I had never heard of before.Read More
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so these are worth a few days worth of writing I guess. Some great stuff this month, and some things that will be going to the kids too. Have a look, and make sure to subscribe to these great services if you like what you see.
Sometimes a kickstarter project comes along and just makes you say "How the hell do people think of these things?". The SharkTooth was initially one of them for me, but now that I have it in hand it makes total sense. A simple laser cut pendant at first glance, upon closer inspection it is easy to see how useful this tiny tool could be. Besides the ten wrenches cut into the center it is easy to see the saw blade on one edge and knife edge opposite. Harder to see until you hold it is the shape of the point besides being able to sharpen into a spear or arrow point also has a diamond shape which makes it usable as a Phillips head screw driver.
Designed by the minds at Archwing LLC. in Madison, WI as part of what they are calling their Tactical Apparel venture, it really is a marvelous design. They will soon be available for order from this website.
There are some things that you learn in bourbon country that don't happen anywhere else. There are bourbons that you can only find there like Kentucky Spirit and Ancient Ancient Age. You also learn that for more than 75 years most of the state has relied on a local bottling company called Ale-8-1 for its primary mixer, not the international brands. It's a brand so much a part of the bluegrass tradition that the name isn't enunciated any more, it's called "A Late One" instead.
So I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that a beverage that is loved this much arrived with sweaters. And not just sweaters, but sweaters that were knit with the sodas name and a winter design.
I gotta tell you, I've always loved ginger ale with whiskey. Until the first time a bartender handed me "a late one and rye". When the label described it as "Crisp, clean, real Ginger with a hint of Citrus" they are under selling the difference it makes. Now ginger ale just won't cut it.
It isn't widely known or distributed, but thanks to the miracle that is the internet you can buy it online direct from the company.
Do yourself a favor and keep some stocked in your fridge or wet bar.
I said goodbye to an old friend yesterday. In some ways it was exactly what I thought it would be. Not much has changed in the funeral mass of the Catholic Church since the 2nd Vatican council approved the move to an English mass after all.
Other things (mostly people), surprised me. People who I never would have bet against making it were missing for a variety of reasons. People I don't remember having a kind words for Packy in High School were crying like it was their son and not Tom and Sally's first born that was taken much too young.
I understand no one knows what to say all the time at these things. I knew his mother just needed a lot of hugs, because she reached for one any time I was within arm's reach. She also needed to know she wasn't losing all contact with us just because he was gone. One thing I have come to realize over the years since high school is that there are some relationships that just ARE. I had not seen Sally in more than twenty years when I walked into that church yesterday, but the hug I received and the obvious thankfulness that I had made it there to be with the family didn't need explanation.
With his Dad, who had lost his firstborn son and with whom I should have been able to empathize, I know I came off sounding like a freshman on one of his intro to journalism classes. We had a strong student-teacher dynamic in school but it wasn't very deep or personal. Why is the first thing we ask "How are you doing?" Or "Are you ok?"???? Shouldn't we know the answers to those two questions without opening our mouths and looking like morons? We say them anyway, especially or maybe because we don't know what else to say when we know Ok is at a minimum weeks away, and there is still a lot of shock and grief for us all to work through before we can really know how we are coping with this loss.
On one side of the gymnasium we had a family clearly grieving. Sisters, brothers, aunts, and uncles. Among them were a scattering of good friends that either now or at various times in the past felt like part of the family. We were standing around sharing stories about Patrick that made us laugh or cry. Often stories that needed to be protected and remembered but not amplified by the PA system. From this group came a stream of people to the microphone to share stories with a wider audience about the amazing and complex person who the world had lost.
On the other side of the room were a lot of Packy's former classmates, probably some friends and associates from work. Those who felt for whatever reason socially obligated to be there. They hit the buffet line, and milled around in the corner furthest from the PA so there was less chance anyone would ask them to say a few words.
We're all supposed to be adults now. All around forty (some much older) with lives, jobs, and many of us with kids of our own. Yet to hear half of the conversation my peers had today you would think they were still living in fraternity houses. The number of people talking about parties I threw in the early '90s shocked me, and some of the best parts were my knowledge that the guy talking was no where near my party that night. I hate to reduce myself to a variation on a pop culture reference that will be dated before most people read this post, but - Do you even funeral bro??
As things were winding down I was going to get together with some of the guys for some drinks and reality intruded. My daughter started texting me about power flickering and water dripping from the ceiling.
I get home and the dogs are barking, and product is waiting in boxes to be reviewed. I opened the first and it's candy, and in my mood that works great. It is a sample pack from a local confectionery we have reviewed before, The Candy Basket. This sampler contains Red Velvet Fudge, Pecan Rolls, and Divinity. All are done to perfection, and arrived fresh and soft to my door.. I can also confirm that they all pair well with both Teeling Irish Whiskey and Barterhouse 20yo Bourbon from the Orphan Barrel Collection that I also have sitting there needing to review. I know, I have a hard job sometimes.
The Teeling you've probably seen reviewed here before. It is by far my favorite everyday Irish Whiskey and for good reason. The sweetness it gains from its time in Caribbean rum casks truly set it apart.
The Barterhouse Orphan Barrel release is something that you don't find every day, and I am telling you right now, you better start looking. Several barrels were found in the back corner of an old rickhouse outside of Tullahoma, KY after sitting forgotten for almost twenty years. What begins on the nose as honey and biscuits along side faint hints of buttercream opens up into bold roasted grain, mellow toasted tobacco and marshmallow to compliment the subtle smoke from the barrel and finishes with hints of nutmeg and brown sugar. Never have I tasted a bourbon that was at once as complex and as smooth, especially after twenty some years in the barrel. I'm going to have to hunt some more down, because I don't want ever reach for this and find the bottle empty.
So, that was another day in Fat Boy Heaven. Sorry if it started a little bit too personal and uncomfortable. I've decided that the only way I can write is to actually engage my mind, that means sometimes the truth as I know it might hit your screen.
My love, prayers, condolences, and thanks go out to the Eichsteadt/Mitcheltree clan. We all shared in the joy and happiness Patrick brought into our lives, thank you again for allowing us to join you in saying goodbye.
I was sent the Cooks Essentials Microwave Pressure Cooker last week to review, and I need to tell you I was skeptical. I remember my grandma using her pressure cooker for two things, canning and cooking beans. It being brought out included dire warnings about coming near it.Read More
Elliot Havok has taken design to a new level again, this time with a line of watches. What started as a lunchtime conversation with some friends who were looking for good looking watches that wouldn't bankrupt them.Read More
Amazon has been making the Kindle line of eInk ebook readers for several years now, and have come a long way since the first oddly shaped and hard to hold iteration.
On June 30th they started shipping their latest, the newest Paperwhite, and it makes another evolutionary jump towards becoming the best ebook platform imaginable. From speed improvements in screen refresh to enhancing the front lighting and reflectivity it is without a doubt the best eInk device on the market.
Slim, light, ridiculously long battery life and touchscreen navigation that is deceptively responsive given the inherent limitations of the screen technology combine to make this a must have if you aren't using a Kindle already, and worth a serious look even if you are.
Tonight a good friend that I don't get to spend much time with due to geography came by to catch up, and we decided to sample a few whiskys while he was here.
As a big scotch guy Lagavulin is one of his favorites, so when I pulled this off the shelf his eyes bugged out. Labeled bottle 4/504 and distilled and barreled in 1998 this is a double matured Scotch that was sure to meet our expectations.
As an "Islay" Single Malt Lagavulin is known for a strong smokey flavor, and this bottle did not disappoint. Straight from the bottle the nose had notes of dried stone fruit and burnt sugar. The taste started with smooth but strong smoke, which was quickly joined by leather and mild tobaccos before fading into smooth caramel and vanilla.
As my readers know by now I'm not typically a single malt fan, but this will stay in my cabinet for special occasions.
I realized as I was sitting in the dentists office waiting for my son and daughter to finish that it had been a while since I had posted anything about the random unsolicited boxes of products I have received.
Some of these boxes I expect every month from subscription services hoping for publicity like the great folks at GeekBox and Wet Shave Club. Others show up out of the blue, like the tshirt and sweatshirt that arrived with the "Last Star Fighter" logo shortly after I reposted an article about a sequel to that amazing movie being in the works. Sometimes the contents are worth keeping, sometimes they are worth passing on to Jimmie and other friends, or handing to the wife and kids. Once in a while they are barely worth the room they take up in the trash can.
Here come the pictures and descriptions, I'll come back through when I get time and add links where I can tomorrow. Enjoy!
Well, that was most of the assorted stuff that came in May. I have some other reviews to get caught up on, and some great recipes to post for you guys. Stay tuned.
It isn't the first time it's been done apparently, but it's the first time I've seen it. Chevy Truck's ad agency worked with a company called Americhip to put a video player inside the page of my magazine. It powers on when the plastic tab you see at the left side in the fold pulls out and allows the battery to complete the circuit. You select which video file to play with one of three buttons on the right hand side. On the back of the page is a perforation that reveals a micro-USB connector. I tried plugging it into my computer but it didn't show up as a drive, so it appears to only serve as a charging port with video files hard set in the memory chip.
I'll play around with maybe tearing it down and seeing if the parts are hackable over the weekend.
Carrie and I finally had a chance to have lunch at ABV Public House in Hillsboro, and we were impressed by the selection of both food and beverages on offer. Founded originally as a tap house for Main Brew, the home brewing supply store adjacent to them ABV has quickly become a draw by themselves for anyone looking for hard to find bottled beer, a wide range of taps to fill the ubiquitous Northwest "Growler" from, and increasingly for those looking for a remarkably great meal.
I had the Chicken Hash, which was made from Pulled Confit Chicken Thigh, Potato Hash, Onions, a Sunny Side Farm Egg + Romesco Crema. Not the kind of dish you expect to find at a small pub that doesn't even have a sign out front. While I prefer my hash to have crispier potatoes this was a flavorful and satisfying bowl that is sure to please anyone. The chicken was moist and bursting with flavor while not being as greasy as confit dishes can sometimes find themselves. The egg was perfectly cooked and when broken open over the hash provided the perfect richness to blend with the Crema to flavor the potatoes. If you like hash of any kind stop in and give this one a try for brunch.
ABV Public House is typical Portland. Unmarked, unknown, and uncommonly good. A little piece of Fat Boy Heaven in a tiny strip mall between the gun range and the home brew store. It doesn't get anymore Portland than that. You can find ABV online here, or just go visit them at:
23588 NW Clara Lane
Hillsboro, OR 97124
Update: April 1st, 2015
We went back a couple of weeks later with the kids to get another picture of how ABV really behaved on a weeknight. While food quality was just as great, service dropped severely. At 6pm on a Wednesday night we had a 40 minute wait to be seated, even though there was an open table clearly visible from the podium.
It took nearly another hour before appetizers (Fried Cheese Curds) were brought out, and 29 minutes past that we finally got our meals.
I ordered the 50/50 Burger, while Carrie went with the Green Chile Burger. Both were excellent. Both kids ordered ABV burgers, classic 1/4 pound cheese burgers.
I'm sure you have all seen the adds for this device in newspapers and on TV for months, but I never knew anyone who actually had tried one until I received the Big Boss Blender & Soup Maker from Amazon this week.
I decided to use one of the recipes included in their cookbook instead of one of my own to make sure I gave a product I was pretty sceptical of a fair chance.
The recipe was for Corn and Chicken Soup, and the directions were pretty simple. Add the ingredients, hit a button and 30 minutes later I was supposed to have soup for four ready to eat.
It seemed a little thin, but actually was pretty decent, and was cooked through and blended in exactly thirty minutes. The family was quite impressed, and I was blown away that it actually worked as easily as described.
If you love soup and want a way to make it easier and with almost zero effort, this is an awesome idea that deserves a spot on your counter top.
For a couple of weeks I've been using the new Echo from Amazon, training it in different rooms of the house and finally settling on the kitchen as its home in our house.
While it looks like just another Bluetooth speaker the technology behind this little cylinder is Amazon's next bid to change our lives, and unlike the Fire Phone this one has the potential to shake things up.
Once you plug the Echo in you go through a process with either your Kindle Fire or iPhone to configure it to connect via your wifi network. Once it is on the Internet it is really just ready to work.
You can fine tune its ability to recognize your voice commands by going through training sessions, but it worked amazingly well right out of the box. As the software improves more features will be added, including the ability to interact with more content services and the ability to change the keyword used to wake it for commands.
For now you are limited to iHeartRadio, Prime Music, and Tune In Radio for audio. I would think the Amazon owned Audible will be next to be supported (and I hope so, as audio books are what I listen to most while doing chores around the house).
When they are available to everyone I would encourage anyone who has bought into the Amazon ecosystem to snatch one up. Echo is going to be the center of the home soon.
In January at CES Sling announced a partnership with several cable television networks including Disney and CNN to offer a monthly subscription service which promised to bundle together the most popular cable television networks into a single streaming service they dubbed "SlingTV".
Including such popular networks as ESPN, FOOD Network, and CNN into a $19.95/month service the announcement rocked the internet and cable television worlds at the same time.
The promised service launched today with a 14 day free trial, and I've been using it on a variety of platforms for a few hours to see how it works.
The biggest limitation for most families is going to be that only one device can be logged in to the service at a time. Logging in on my iPad deactivated my viewing on my TV, actually logging me out and forcing me to log back in with email and password to begin watching again. For families with a multitude of screens like ours this is a serious limit with such a hefty price tag. A $20 subscription per family member would make cable television cheaper and give us a wider range of programming.
That being said there is a lot to like here. Even with what I am sure is a huge look-in audience on launch day there were no quality issues on any of the devices I tried. Playback is smooth and full HD quality, a must at this price point.
At launch Sling also offers a sports add on pack featuring 10 additional channels including ESPNews and Universal Sports for an additional $5, with the promise of more add on packs such as family and movie packs to come as deals are made with production studios.
In all it is a compelling if expensive service that delivers exactly what it claims if not anything more. Give the trial a spin and if you find yourself using it enough it may be worth the price tag for your family.