Dinner with Carrie: Pecan Penny's BBQ

Carrie and I finally made it to a BBQ spot we've been meaning to try a few blocks away from our apartment, and the weather decided to cooperate tonight. 

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I decided to try as much as I could for this review, so I ordered the "Downtown Sampler", which for $21.99 gives you generous portions of brisket, pulled pork, and a 1/4 chicken plus two sides. For my sides I chose to go for the carbs, adding hush puppies and mac & cheese.

The meat arrived unsauced but perfectly prepared, giving me the opportunity to try all five sauces on the table. The Carolina vinegar sauce was almost straight vinegar instead of  the spicy vinegar sauce I was expecting. The Memphis tomato sauce was good, but a little sweeter than I prefer. The Daddy-G, their house BBQ sauce was good but didn't have enough spice to rise above the tomatoes and brown sugar. The spicy grandpa, a spicy version of their house sauce was better at rising above the tomatoes but still wasn't great.  Surprising me was the eastern Carolina mustard sauce, which gave me everything I was looking for on all three meats.

Turning to the sides, the mac & cheese was good but not great because the cheese broke during preparation leaving clumps of cheddar and oil. The hush puppies were perfectly cooked, served light and fluffy as they should be but rarely are.

In all it was a good meal with better company, but I'm still looking for perfect BBQ in Columbus.

Whisky Review: Lagavulin 16yo Distillers Edition

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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. 

Things they sent me to review

OK, this has been a crazy summer filled with construction dust and contractors while we remodeled our kitchen.  normally each of these products would have their own post, but I am buried under review units and need to catch up, so we will do quick hits on everything.

Atari Arcade Duo

The Atari Arcade for iPad

The Atari Arcade is very cool if you love classic gaming and still have an iPad 2/3 laying around.  It is powered by the 30-pin connector on your iPad, so no batteries are wasted.  Would have been better if they had added a USB or 30-pin port to the back to charge through though.  In all it works nicely and gives you that satisfying arcade joystick feel to bring games like Pac-Man back to their visceral glory.  Can be found cheap online.

 

HP X2 Windows 8 Convertable Tablet/Laptop
The HP X2 windows 8 Tablet with Laptop Dock

The X2 is the first Windows laptop/tablet I have liked in a long time.  Light weight and sturdy, the X2 is decently powered and makes great use of the Windows 8 Modern UI with it's responsive touchscreen and above average spec sheet.  I love that the keyboard dock doubles battery life (up to 16 hours of moderate use) without adding too much weight.  If I wanted to go back to windows, this would get me there.

Rymdkapsel - iOS Game

Rymdkapsel, an interesting new iOS RTS game

Rymdkapsel is short on graphics, but long on re-play ability and challenging.  You need to manage resources and workers to defend your outpost while trying to complete various missions and defending yourself against waves of attacking enemies.  This game has me turning my back on casual games for hours at a time.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8" Tablet

The Samsung Galaxy Note has done the impossible....it is an Android device I could see myself using every day.  I haven't had a lot of love for Android in the past, but this combination of form factor and the pressure-sensitive stylus has me warming to the idea.  The Galaxy Tab 8.0 has 1.5GB RAM, 16GB Storage, and a SnapDragon 800 1.5Ghz processor, giving it plenty of power to run any application.  When combined with the ChromeCast it becomes an easy home entertainment center as well.  The thing that I love the most is the stylus and how easily it adapts to drawing and note taking.  If you miss the days of your Palm Pilot and decent handwriting recognition, but want a display large enough to comfortably read book and watch video, this is the tablet to get for now.

Sega Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Center

The Sega Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player

A handheld that knows what it is and does itself proud, I love having 80 Genesis classics at my finger tips for some retro gaming on demand.  It's downfall is that it doesn't save game progress, so RPG mainstays like Phantasy Star would be pointless. If you are looking to re-gain some of your youth and are OK with only having the platform and arcade titles to draw from, you can do a lot worse than this $59 wonder.

Sega Genesis Arcade Nano - Virtua Fighter Edition

The Sega Genesis Arcade Nano

This little wonder serves to illustrate just how far computing and video games have come in my lifetime.  This little keychain has as much computing power as the Sega Genesis console, and includes the contents of 10 game cartidges besides.  Easily hooks up to any TV and provides quick easy gaming fun for you or your kids.  For $19.99 you can't go wrong.  Also available in a puzzle games version with Columns and 9 other titles.

Credit Card Lightbulb

The Credit Card Light Bulb

Not much surprise here.  Flip up the bulb and it turns on.  Fairly bright and super reliable.  Would be great for emergency kits and cars, or to carry in your gear bag just in case.

 

Impossible Instant Lab

The Impossible Instant Lab

 This was one of the first really big KickStarter campaigns to draw wide-spread attention, and there is good reason.  With photo applications like Instagram and Hipstamatic taking over the camera phone market with their oddly retro photo effects, bringing back physical old school poloroids isn't a huge jump.  Being able to attach your iPhone to the device and transfer your instagram greatness in physical form is pretty cool, but can get expensive due to hard-to-find film cartidges.  Impossible thought this through though, and they have supplies available to keep you in instamatic film for as long as you would like.  The film is still a bit pricey (a 10 shot cartridge still runs about $25), but the novelty makes it a huge hit.  Available from Impossible for $299.00

 

Review: First round of iPad mini cases/covers has arrived

OK, so far I have received several cases/covers for the iPad mini, and a couple show why third-party case manufacturers need to be careful not to rush products to market too early.

Apple SmartCover for iPad miniThe first to arrive actuall got to me before the mini did.  Apple's SmartCover for iPad mini is much like the SmartCover for the original iPad.  Attached by magnets along the left hand side of the iPad, it lays across the face of the iPad protecting the screen.  Lined with micro-fiber cloth, it also can be removed and folded to be used as a screen cleaner.  It protects the glass but leaves the sides and back uncovered, and provides no real protection in case of a fall.  It is better than nothing, and holds in place fairly well over the screen to protect the glass while it is in a bag or pocket, but provides little protection.

Ionic 2-Tone leather caseThe next case to come in was the Ionic 2-Tone Designer Leather Case Cover.  This case looks great, and is well constructed.  The stiching is well done, and special attention to design was used to provide a magnetic flap to secure the iPad instead of the typical velcro or friction flaps used in most other cases.  The problem is that Ionic rushed this case out without having design specs from Apple for screen size and more importantly, the size of the bezel around the screen.  Apple changed the way it did bezels with the mini, and rather than being equal widths on all four sides, the long sides of the bezel are narrower.  This brings us to the problem with Ionic's case.  More than 1/4 inch of screen is obstructed on each of the long sides.  As you can see, the case covers a significant portion of the screen along both edgesThis was done because prior to the announcement of the iPad mini, no one could have expected that for the first time the bezel would be narrowed along those edges.  Ionic's designers couldn't take that into account, and so they are shipping a case that is not at all funtional for this device.

The last case to arrive is the iTronz Black High Quality PU Leather Smart iPad Mini case folio.  My favorite of the three I've recieved so far, but again it was obviously rushed into production.  Unlike the ionic above it was designed after the announcement, as evidenced by the proper placement of the side cut around the screen.  The design is pretty common, it fits the device well and provides fair ammounts of protection.  The issue comes from the placement of magnets in the front flap.  They are intended to activate a magnetic switch in the ipad to enable the unlocking of the device.  The magnets are not aligned properly for the switch, so you still have to manually turn the ipad on.  Not a big deal, but not as convinient as it was intended to be.

The bottom line is this folks.  By christmas there will be a lot of cases from well known manufacturers that work exactly the way you expect them to.  While the proces may be cheaper on these no-name imports, sometimes you get what you paid for.

Review: iPod Nano (2012)

No product in Apple's recent history has had half as many form factor changes as the iPod Nano, now in it's 8th incarnation.  The latest version blends the previous two into something resembling what I would imagine the smallest possible iPhone incarnation.  With three rows of two icons there isn't much room on this display, but there is plenty of space for a music player, clock, and Nike+ integration.

Sound quality is the best I've heard on an iPod, but whether a sign of a new DSP chip or just the result of the new ear pods, I can't say. What I can say is that I'm impressed. I sampled music from Gary Clark, jr and various country and classical albums with great results.

If you are in the market for a new iPod, you can't go wrong with this one!

Sphero has arrived!

When Sphero was first announced I thought it was an interesting idea, but didn't know if it was something I could really love. Now that it has arrived, I can't stop wondering what these guys will come up with next. I'll be playing around with them more tonight when the kids get home, but here is a quick rundown.
Sphero is a remote-controlled ball. I know, not very exciting at face value.

The thing that makes Sphero great are the applications. Golf, where you use the iPhone or iPod Touch as a virtual club. Sphero, which is just a simple remote control to play around with it. SpheroCam, which lets you shoot video and pictures of your Sphero in action. Draw&Drive let's you draw a path on the screen of your iDevice and watch the Sphero follow the path.

The exciting thing is what could come next. I can think of tons of applications. I would detail them here, but then I wouldn't be able to sell the apps.

Stay tuned for video and fun with the kids tomorrow.

Hiding in plain sight - The best in bookbinding meets technology

There are two companies that have set a new standard in merging ancient techniques with modern technology.  Pad & Quill and DODOcase.  They first came to my attention with the iPad, but have since expanded their lines to include the Kindle Fire, and now even the MacBook Air.

I have always loved my DODOcase for my iPad, but have also been impressed with the quility of Pad & Quill's iPad and iPhone 4 cases.  So when I had the opportunity to put multiple products from each company head to head, I couldn't pass it up.

DODOcase sent me their "Morris Lessmore DODOcase", and the "DODOcase for Kindle Fire".  Both have amazing quality, and perfect attention to detail.  From the well chosen colors to the detailed embossing and foil stamping on the Morris Lessmore, to the well done wood burning of a campfire inside the Kindle Fire case, DODOcase has brought the craft of book binding to a new audience that is quickly replacing well-crafted first edition books with eBooks.

DODOcase's Morris Lessmore cover for iPad2DODOcase's Kindle Fire offering

Pad & Quill sent me the "Octavo Case For iPad2®", "The Cartella Case For Macbook Air 11 inch", and the "Fire Keeper".  Pad & Quill allow for more color choices for end papers, and also allow for an optional inside pocket (options not as cusotmizable from DODOcase).  Like DODOcase they have great crafters making the binding shine, and their attention to detail is amazing.

The Octavo cover for iPad2 from Pad & QuillPad & Quill's "Fire Keeper"

I really have a hard time calling one better than the other, as they both are making some amazing products.  DODOcase has done some very nice things with special editions, incorporating some beautiful artwork from local artists, and using classic embossing and foil stamping techniques sets them a little bit above Pad & Quill from a looks standpoint.  On the other end, Pad & Quill have a solidly built product that offers a bit more protection.  The wood tray that holds the device (regardless of model) from Pad & Quill is more solidly built, and shows more polish than DODOcase's offerings.  

Over the last two weeks I have switched back and forth on my iPad 2 and still cannot decide which I like more. Our house is divided when it comes to the Kindle Fire products.  I love the DODOcase, my teen daughter prefers the offering from Pad & Quill.  Both are well built, and I think for her it came down to the cute little ribbon bookmark that comes out at the bottom and functions as a nice way to remove the device from the case when wanted. Since DODOcase hasn't made a product for the MacBook Air yet, my Air hasn't left the Pad & Quill case since it arrived. I haven't had any heat issues, the cutouts allow for use of all ports quite nicely, and the polish makes it comfortable even with my hands resting on the wood while I type.

Corner detail on Pad & Quill's The Cartella Case For Macbook Air 11 inch

No matter which company you go with, you are sure to be pleased.  Both companies are bringing old fashioned technology to a new audience, and doing it with amazing levels of style.

Last iPad case reviews of the year - I think

 

OK, it's time for my final case reviews of 2011.  I have had the luxury of using about 25 iPad 2 cases this year, and they have run the table.  From overpriced and truly un-functional, to great values that my friends have willingly taken off my hands over the high-priced name brands.

Here are the last 3.  I like them overall, but one has become my day-to-day case.

Marware MicroShell Folio for iPad 2 Black

This case really suprised me.  A solid ABS plastic back with a smart cover attached.  Nice detail, magnets on the cover are strong enough to prevent the case from opening in my bag on the way to work.  Adds a solid comforting feel to the iPad without being obtrusive.  I have started using this every day when I want to be able to just throw my iPad into my bag to head out the door.  Marware has been making cases and accessories for a long time, and they got this one right.  There are very few cases or sleeves that have come alng that I decide to hold onto.  This will be one of them.

 

JAVOedge Austin Commuter Case for the Apple iPad 2 (Gray) - Latest Generation

I had never heard of JAVOedge before receiving this case, but I can tell you I will be on the lookout for other products if this is an indication of what they produce.  This is a great case to take along if you don't have a bag full of gear going with you.  It is a little bulky to throw into my gear bag, but on those occasions when I just want to take my iPad without taking the kitchen sink, this performed well.  It is well padded and has a secure hold on the iPad when opened.  When zipped shut, I had no fear of impact damage at all.  Stiching was well done, and quality control seems to be excellent.  If this is the type of case you are looking for, you can't go wrong giving this a try.

Incase Magazine Jacket for iPad 2

 

Incase has been in the accessory business for a long time, and the construction on this case shows off all that they have learned.  It is sturdy, has a secure elastic strap to hold it closed.  Solid ABS plastic provides a good feel of protection and firmly grips the iPad when it's open.  The reason it won't see regular use in my day is a curious choice.  They elected not to make the cover a 'Smart Cover', which is to say that it doesn't turn the iPad on when it gets opened.  For the price and with the other cases on the market, what could have been a home run has become a nice also ran in the case game.

Case Roundup - Kindle Fire

Ok, so I've had the fire for a couple of weeks, and have enjoyed using it.  I also have had the opportunity to review a few cases, and figured I would share my thoughts.

As with any tablet, protection is important.  I wouldn't think of carrying my Fire without a case any more than I would my iPad or iPhone.

 

Marware - Microshell

The Microshell from Marware comes first.  I really like the way it fully surronds the tablet, providing a non-slip surface on the out side, and combines a great east to fold back cover.  This makes reading it like a book quite easy, and provides decent scratch protection for the entire unit quite nicely.  I have my doubts that it would provide much as far as impact protection, but I don't really plan on treating it too rough any way.

Marware - C.E.O. Hybrid

Marware's C.E.O. Hybrid is a beautiful case.  Nice leather grain, with just a touch of padding makes it feel much more likely to provide impact resitance should I lose my grip on the Fire.  It has a nice hand strap for easy one-handed holding of the Kindle Fire, and a strap that holds the cover tight to the screen when closed.  It provides coverage to the corners, but very little to the edges, making it much more of an executive and responsible adults type of case.

Belkin - Verve Tab Folio for Kindle Fire

Belkin's case is pure simple utility.  Not a lot of bells or whistles, not much to protect your investment.  The magnetic closure on the strap is a nice touch, but there are far better cases (like those above) available at the same price point.