Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Due to multiple personal health issues and some family issues I've not posted here in quite some time, and can't say when I might again, but as it is Christmas I wanted to share one of my favorite Christmas quotes:

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'" 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Farewell Scott my Son! Best Of Luck to You!

This afternoon my number two son Scott and his friends had been loading a big van full of his belongings as he starts his move out of my house.  It's sad but humerous too as I overheard them in the hall while the three of them were trying to move Scott's large dresser at other end of house; after much thumping; and exclamations I heard one of them say:

"It's too big, how will we get it out??!"

"You'll have to stand it on it's side!" I yelled down the hall after which there was and more thumping, banging, and an exclamation of how heavy it was.

'You took the drawers out first, right?"  I yelled.  "That would make it a lot lighter and then you don't have to worry about the drawers sliding open and hitting the walls!" I added, followed with "That would just be stupid if you didn't take the drawers out!"

Dead silence, followed by the sounds of drawers hastily being removed from the dresser.

All the time this activity and the rest of the moves Tails was confined to my bedroom so she would not sneak outside.  I could hear her meowing out the window at them.  Finally when there was a long lull in the proceedings I went and got her and she curled up in my lap.  There she sleeps, oblivious now to the fact she's lost her young master!

While I'll miss my son Scott I'm very proud of him.  On limited funding he's starting a new chapter in his life, moving into a house in the city with his girlfriend and other friends of theirs, and continuing his college education.  Fare thee well, my son, fare thee well!

Scott & Tails First Meet 8/2007

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Bagger Dave's Grand Rapids Review

I ate at the Bagger Dave's in Grand Rapids Michigan yesterday; it was the first time I had been to a Bagger Dave's.  I really love a good burger and and I had heard they makes a good one. Before going I talked to multiple friends and read quite a few reviews.

Friends were split between liking it or saying it was OK or nothing special.  Most of the reviews for the Grand Rapids location were negative citing cold food, rude staff, incorrect orders, long waits when picking up orders, and other complaints.  I decided I would take my kids yesterday, and two of them were avialble so off we went arounbd 4:45 PM.

We were greeted and seated quickly and our waitress was there as soon as we were in our chairs.  She asked if we had even been to a Bagger Dave's before and we told er it was our first visit  She proceeded to tell us how things worked there.  One of the things that I liked was by default all burgers had two patties.  One thing I did not like as the server explained, was nothing extra came with the burgers or sandwiches.  You want fries?  That's extra.  The same thing for building your own burger for things like meat, cheese, chili, etc.  Even sour cream and cheese on a small cup of chili is another 80 cents. 

In addition to the menu they have these little cards for making a custom burger and/or an order of fries to go with it.  I chose this route picking three beef patties, lettuce, tomato, raw onions, cheddar, bacon, their Santa Fe Chipolte sauce, and Mayo.  In reference to what I said above about everything costing extra, in my opinion there was not enough of the premium toppings such as cheese and bacon on my burger to justify the cost.

My daughter picked their Bacon BBQ Burger, my son their Peanut Butter, Honey, and Banana sandwich.  We all ordered their Fresh Cut Potato Fries, and soda.

Our food arrived and I was very pleased to find all three orders of fries were pipping hot, and I have to say they were incredible! You could almost justify the trip for those alone!  Another area I was impressed with was the service.  Our server was very attentive, and fast, and seemed like she knew when we would something, and she just appeared at our side.  The soda was well carbonated and tasted very good.

The first problem I had was with my burger;  they had forgotten the Santa Fe sauce and the onions.  A quick chat with one of the servers fixed that.  Another issue was my son's sandwich;  he said the way the banana was cooked left it like mush with a bad consistency and no taste.

My daughter and I enjoyed our burgers;  I wish they did not have to cook everything medium well however.  I like my burgers pink on the inside and the patties in both mine and my daughters were kind of dry.  At least with the sauces we had chosen they were still very tasty, but they could have been so much more so if they could have been cooked a little less and had some juices left in them.  If the kitchen is following safe handling practices and they are using good product, there is no need to so cook a ground beef patty to this  extent.  I will say, and I hate to use this phrase but I feel I must;  their Santa Fe Chipolte sauce is to die for!

We decided to order a dessert and we shared one of their Sinfully Sweet Brownie Sundaes.  The one disappointment in this otherwise fine dessert was the brownies tasted like those cheap ones you get out of vending machines or low cost multipacks, with each one wrapped in cellophane.  They were obviously not baked on the premises, and we all agreed they were of a lower quality which affected the rest of the dessert which was very, very good.

The bill came, and I was able to see how quickly all the extras added up!

One of my friends had asked how this compared to Smashburger.  I mentioned it was different.  Same thing as trying to compare it to a double bacon burger at Culvers or Steak & Shake;  it's different.  I could see myself eating burgers from all three establishments depending on my mood at a given time, but I will say the fries at Burger Dave's totally thrash the competition's!

So, the big question is would I go back?  I believe I would but I would be more careful;  I'd order one of the stock burgers and just an order of fries, and I'd skip their dessert which should help keep the cost down.  Perhaps a beer or two would have helped and made me a little less critical, but alcohol should enhance a good meal and not masquerade its shortcomings.

Samsung UN60ES7500 60-Inch 1080p 240 Hz 3D Slim LED HDTV

With the Tax man coming with a refund I thought I would do a review on my recent TV purchase.

As with any major purchase I did so much research before selecting the Samsung UN60ES7500 60-Inch 1080p 240 Hz 3D Slim LED HDTV.  I looked at all the major brands including LG, Sharp, Toshiba, Panasonic, and Sony.  I spent several weeks in my free time doing this, reading and comparing specifications, and checking customer reviews on sites like Amazon and Google Shopping.  Where available for each model I looked at I read CNET and Home Theater site reviews as well.

Based on the available technologies I had to decide between Plasma and LED for starters, and then Active or Passive 3D. From my research online I discovered there were proponents in each camp, and finally I reached critical mass and realized without some hands on comparison I would never be able to decide.

My older son and I went down to the local Best Buy and basically tried all the brands mentioned above and both active and passive 3D technologies.  The  Samsung UN60ES7500 immediately blew away the biggest myth I had read of with Active 3D and that's not having enough of a viewing angle when move away from the center of the screen.  In 2D and 3D TV we could see the picture fine when being on so much of angle where you wouldn't be able to see the front of the TV!

The TV picture for both 2D and 3D is FABULOUS!  Totally blows away, as I would expect, my 5 year old 50" Panasonic plasma, and my 2 year old LG 22" LED TV.  I could not be more pleased!
On the rare occasions I use the pass-through mode of my AV receiver, the sound quality if the TV speakers is decent;  certainly far better than the two aforementioned TVs.

Of course while doing my research I came across complaints for this line of TVs from Samsung, such as you could not use a mouse or keyboard with it, but under mine int he setup mode are setting for a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard.  I'll have to try that on a later date and update this report.  I also read complaints of different color lines down the display, light bleeding around the edges, and other issues, but as I said previously the picture on this unit is amazing!

More than a few of the reviews I had read mentioned the Samsung line my TV was a part of were turning themselves off for no reason.  I'm theorizing this might have been because they had automatic power setting set to do this, or perhaps the voice command feature misinterpreted some TV dialog as a command to turn off the set.   One reviewer mentioned when they removed theirs from the network this issue stopped, mine has been on my home network since the day it arrived, with no issues.  The wireless network setup was quick and easy in fact and I've had no network related issues on either of my home wireless networks, both of which use different security settings.

Speaking of Voice Commands, this is one of Samsung's 'Smart TVs', meaning you can use a set of predefined commands and hand gestures to control it.

It should be noted I did NOT buy the set for these features, which is good because they are, in my humble opinion, not ready for prime time.  Trying to get the TV to recognize, even with the TV muted, voice commands is a hit or miss proposition.  It either does not recognize the initial command phrase, or it can easily misinterpret commands.  How it thinks "TV Power Off"is the command for "Current Time" is beyond me.  The hand gesturing also needs work.   Trying to get the on screen menu to come up when holding using the waving gesture it expects, even after going through the setup calibration,  rarely works, but get a bit tired and raise your hands while stretching, and Bam!  it appears!

Hopefully subsequent firmware upgrades will improve this, but if you main reason for getting a Smart TV is for these features, you will be sorely disappointed.

The TV comes with a number of pre-loaded applications, such as a Netflix library and there is an application store you can choose more from.  There are both free and paid apps.  As the TV has a built in camera, there is also a Skype application.  This is also a decent web browser;  with a wireless keyboard and mouse this would be a very easy way to surf the web, check your email, etc.

So, in closing, if you're looking for a TV based on being able to dump your remote and use hand gesturing and voice commands to control it, this is NOT the TV for you.  You'll be very disappointed in the poor implementation of these features based on today's firmware. 

If on the other hand you're looking for a large screen, network connected 3D HD TV with a fantastic picture, a boatload of applications, and a plethora of other features this is an ideal purchase.

Because of the poor implementation of the Voice Command and Gesturing features, I'd give this TV four out of five stars.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Damn!  It's been a long time since I've published on my blog!

Here's a food tip I just had to pass on about cooking bacon. Put it in a sheet pan and cook in a 350 degree oven. After 15 minutes turn the tray 180 degrees, and if cooking multiple trays swap them on their shelves. Cook another 15 minutes or until cooked the way you like it; the photo below shows the bacon after 30 minutes cooked as above.

Each slice comes out cooked to the same degree and nice and flat, and t tastes much better than pan frying. You can also do things like sprinkle freshly ground pepper or other spices, such as ground chili for different flavorings.

Typically I do several pounds at a time because the cooked bacon keeps in the fridge for weeks, I store it in a heavy duty freeze bag.

My two favorite sandwiches are Taylor Ham, egg, and cheese,and the other is turkey with a bit of mayo and some crisp bacon. I think though if I added bacon to the Taylor ham sandwich it might come in first!

Two Pounds of Deliciousness!