Thursday, December 10, 2009

Get the Butt-Out!

I've said before that this isn't a review site to make money and I still don't do solicited reviews of new products, though I've had some offers this year.  I simply like to pass on information on products I've bought, used and found to be outstanding, in one way, or another.  This latest product is no exception.

I bought the Butt-Out (TM) on a whim, a few years back.  My youngest daughter and I were shopping for a few items for the upcoming deer hunt.  We came across the Butt-Out and my daughter, of course, could not stop laughing at the name.  It was worth the $6.99 to watch her laugh and laugh, even if I never used the thing.

So, after a few days of butt jokes, I began the hunt for some whitetail goodness to put in the freezer.  I took a nice, fat fork opening morning and as I began to dress it, I remembered the Butt-Out, still in its package and in my truck. 

The instructions were simple; jam it in the deer's ass all the way to the hilt, twist 1 1/2 turns and slowly pull out 10"-12" of intestine.  Then tie it off and cut off the tag end, freeing the Butt-Out.  It was more than easy and took about 7 seconds.  I was highly impressed.  I finished dressing the deer as normal, except I did not need to saw, or break the pelvic bone, or core the asshole.  The intestine and anal canal just pull back through as you sweep the guts out of the body cavity!  It took about 10 minutes off the total time to dress the deer, made the task cleaner, easier and less unpleasant.  Don't let anyone kid you, dealing with an animal's asshole is not pleasant on any level.  Check out this very short video at Hunter Specialties to see how quick, clean and easy it really is to deal with the ass-end of your next venison meal:)

I've used the Butt-Out on my last three deer.  It works and works well and is more than worth the money.  I would recommend it to anyone that hunts and field-dresses deer, elk, antelope, etc.  It can be found in most sporting goods stores, gun shops, Wally World and online at Cabelas and Hunters Specialties.  This year, I noticed there is even a Butt-Out 2 that is longer and has a guard below the extended handle.  Both models come in hunter orange and if you look real close in the image of me beginning to dress the nice little B&C 143 1/2 eight-point I took during this year's hunt, you can see a flash of orange.  Yep, the Butt-Out in action, folks...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Underpaid and unappreciated

Just read a nice article on bloggers that get paid to review products and often mis-represent them, or at least present a biased view.  I have never received a dime for any of these reviews.  I've never had contact with the manufacturers, except to steal images from their websites (no apologies there, since I'm reviewing their shit).   I am, however, waiting for them to call and offer me lots of money or free products......................................................still waiting, about a half-off coupon? 


Well, as you can see, totally unsolicted, un-biased and WAY underpaid opions are all you're going to find here:(

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Smartwool Socks

By necessity, this is is more a plug, than a review.  There just isn't a whole lot to review when it comes to pair of socks, is there?  You just don't put a lot of thought into your socks, except in more extreme situations, like cold-weather, hiking, etc.  In fact, it's only when I'm hunting, hiking, or ice-fishing that I give socks more than a passing notion.  Also in point of fact, I wouldn't be reviewing Smartwool socks because I might have never purchased them, except for a glowing review by the salesperson who recommended and sold me the Keens shoes I reviewed way back when.   I bought two pair on her recommendation and love both of them.  I often hunt for them in my basket of socks.  I wore them hunting this year in very cold temps and deep snow. They are also the socks I wear when traveling around the world, period. 

Technically, there isn't much to review.  Why, I'll just let the folks at Smartwool give you the inside scoop on why this is what you should be wrapping your toes in-they can explain it much better than I.  What I can tell you is that whatever they tell you, Smartwool works.  It's comfortable, durable, wicks moisture, works dry and wet.  I also found them to be reasonably priced for the best socks I've ever purchased.

What more is there to say?  They seem like a philosophically sound company, with social values and a conscience.  They also use only merino wool from New Zealand and I happen to like all the Kiwis I've worked with over the years and LOVED New Zealand when I worked there last year.  I don't know squat about wool, or merino sheep, but Smartwool socks are good products delivered at a reasonable price.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is that a Rocket Docket in your pocket?

It's no secret that I was very anti-Vista before being pretty much forced into getting a Vista-powered laptop a few months ago.  I was seriously considering downgrading my machine to XP.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it, I say.  The XP OS was mature, stable and delivered what I needed.  I've never felt the need to have bells, whistles and the latest, greatest anything.  I also could care less about the Apple/Microsoft arguments-you simply buy what you need and be done with it.  Give me a machine that's stable, has an office suite, plays music and DVD's and I'm pretty much happy.

So, as I mentioned, I now own a Vista-powered machine.  I unwrapped it, plugged it in and fired it up.  I wiped the bullshit programs, installed my favorites, uploaded my music and video files and that was the sum of my personalization of this machine.  I never watched a tutorial, read a manual, or explored the capabilities of this new OS.  The only thing I cared to learn about Vista was how to turn off the damn sidebar and user account control.  It's a tool, not a toy after all...

Fast forward to yesterday.  Love that sentence by the way...   A crew member stops in my office to learn how to turn off user account control.  I give him the goods and he leaves.  About 20 minutes later he comes down and wants to hug me, play grab-ass and shit like that, he's so happy to be free of those annoying "allow" requests.  Last night I stopped in to look at his computer and browse the software he offered me for helping him out.  While drooling over the $3300.00 USD Adobe CS 3.3 Master Collection he kept waving under my nose ("Take it man, you earned it!") I noticed a nice little feature on his laptop.  If you've ever seen a Mac and noticed a clean desktop and all those pesky icons bundled on a little hide-away tool bar and thought, "Ooooh, I'd like that little bastard on my PC", now you can.  Considered a gift to Windows users, from a Mac fan boy and fan girl-you can now get a program to dock all your desktop icons, links, programs and minimized files and get it FREE.

From my buddy's memory stick, I downloaded a small, free-ware program called RocketDocket (TM) from PunkLabs.  Installed in 30 seconds, figured out how to use it in another 30 seconds.  Drag all those desktop icons onto your RocketDocket and you're instantly styling with a huge, empty desktop.  All your icons are now organized.  Better, they auto-hide.  Even better, you can download hundreds of icon sets (.png files) from a link in settings and they are AWESOME.  I actually downloaded three sets of icons, randomly, dumped them into RocketDocket, then began scrolling through to see if any were passable.  Good Lord, they were all mind-blowing.  In addition to icons, you can also download "docklets", which are similar to Windows Vista sidebar gadgets, but after scrolling through all of them, I saw nothing very worthwhile.

Regardless, in less than 10 minutes I downloaded the single, most useful program I've ever encountered for a PC/laptop, downloaded custom icons and customized each of my 25 icons, changed a few settings, completely cleared my desktop, increased my machine's functionality and for the first time, made this machine my own. 

In fact, I was so blown away by the experience that it moved me to actually explore Vista's capabilities and features for the first time.  I've even re-loaded the sidebar and downloaded a dozen gadgets, though ended up keeping only the talking girl clock, total system usage and Windows Media Player gadgets.  They're actually the only things visible on my desktop, now:)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wilderness Water park and Golf Resort

Time to review the Wilderness Water Park and Golf Resort in Wisconsin Dells, WI.

I'm still here, but it's the third morning and I'm hunched over coffee, not yet able to face more wild water rides and screaming children. My condo is a safe haven, presently. Anyhow, I'm not sure how to actually get into the meat of this review. There's so much to talk about...

OK, lets begin with the town of Wisconsin Dells, itself. Ha ha! That's because it will be short and easy:) The Dells seems to be a bustling, busy fun-filled, typical tourist town as you drive through. That's all I know, because that's all I've ever done-drive through. And that's because I come here and stay at the Wilderness Resort and don't need to leave for the duration of the vacation. Everything you need in a vacation is contained in this resort.

The hotel/condo/cabin complex:
I haven't actually seen the numbers, but I'll take a shot in the dark and say this complex can accommodate somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 people. It's sprawling to say the least. Last year, PW, LP and I stayed in a King fireplace suite in the wilderness area at the South end of the resort. This time around, we reserved a two-bedroom condo with an adjoining double queen room (It seems this is how they make a three-bedroom condo here and we LOVE the setup). The rooms are well-appointed, with a pleasing, mid-western, rustic decor. Rough-hewn timbers, and log furniture. Very comfortable, roomy and clean. Our kitchen is well-appointed and had everything we needed except a blender and one more large pot-not bad when you consider we were cooking for three families. Our condo is located in the Northern half circle, overlooking Glacier Canyon water park and nearly all accommodations are within spitting distance of one water park, or another. The only exceptions are the Wilderness on the Lake condos and some of the cabins, but a shuttle gets to and from the lake accommodations and the cabins are only a few yards away. I'd rate accessibility as better than Disney World accommodations and just as well-appointed.

The only hitch we've had in two vacations here was a very slow draining tub in one of the bathrooms that wasn't fixed during our stay. Housekeeping left a little to be desired as well. Part of that had to do with our lazy asses unable to get out of the condo early enough, but they could've made an effort to return later in the day to do a more thorough job. Not easy to do with over 200 condos, 5,341 rooms (whatever), and probably a hundred cabins, but it's the extra effort that keeps people coming back and never in my life has the vacation buck been more precious. They should have this in mind, especially with Lake Delton, just next door, nothing more than a mosquito-ridden mud hole.

The water parks:
Ho Lee Fuk. There are...six water parks, three indoor and three outdoor parks. One indoor park is a giant wave pool, kiddie park and also boasts 2 big, water rides, 5-story tube rides;one body slide and one you ride a 4-person tube down. Each water park has pools, hot tubs, kiddie areas and rides, water slides, cannons, lazy rivers, etc. Each one also has ample lounge chairs, tables (unless the place is filled to capacity; then you better dig deep, find the German Tourist inside yourself and get up as soon as your target park opens and stake out a claim with towels and personal effects). Each park also has locker rooms, a restaurant, shop with suits, sun tan lotions, etc., and a couple bars. The indoor and outdoor parks are also paired up so you can take advantage of two parks from one lounge chair:) Only Glacier Canyon outdoor park is isolated, across a skyway, or outdoor bridge. It seems, however, this is soon to change with the addition of two more parks, on indoor and one outdoor, right next door. Finally, at all parks, you can also rent cabanas, complete with wide screen TV's, bar maids and chains across them to keep out the riff-raff. For a hundred bucks per day, you'd think they could loose the chains and hire a sumo wrestler to stand by instead.

There are at least two arcades. One is located in the Dodge 'em City & Timberland Playhouse, a giant and I mean GIANT 4 story playhouse/jungle gym complex full of tunnels, slides, stairs, nets, tennis ball cannons and fun. LP LOVES this place and we end our trip here, opting to give her a few hours here the day we check out and drive home-no wet swim suits and sun tan lotion to contend with on the way home:)

Other amenities:
This time around we were treated the riding stables:) A guided horseback ride through wooded, rolling hills, along a spectacular, limestone canyon. The horses are reign-trained and just what you would expect at a riding stable. The ride lasted at least an hour and contained a few surprises. After the ride, we stopped at the barnyard to feed the little goats, sheep and calves. LP loved the little goats and I admit they were pretty cute. We fed them ice cream cones full of corn and in some cases my shorts. I would highly recommend this change of pace, as a break from the non-stop fun and excitement of the water parks. It was peaceful, relaxing and very pleasant.

There's also a little place to make your own pottery, exercise rooms all over the hotel/condo complex, movie nights and probably 37 other activities I've missed in the two times I've been here. In winter, in addition to the indoor parks, there's a snowboard hill. The resort offers movies outside, campfires, baby-sitting, free tickets to the Tommy Bartlett show, golfing, magic shows, scuba diving, Snakes Alive show, balloon art, tye-dying, duck races and scavenger hunts. I'm not entirely sure how you pry the little ones away from the water parks for all this, but it's great that there are a host of other activities, I suppose just in case it rains.

Wrap up:
I'll not kid you; this place is a bit expensive. Accommodations are slightly high but worth every penny. They include access to every park. Park access is exclusively for guests, so lines are short, or non-existent. Food and drinks are very high priced; they've got you as a captive audience. The plan PW and Mr. Bud came up with is the way to go. Rent a condo for multiple families, reducing the cost. With a kitchen, you can bring your own food and cook, reducing costs even more. Drink a lot of booze? Bring your own beer, wine, pina colada mix and blender. Pack PLASTIC bottles to fill and take to the parks-no coolers or glass allowed. Drinks at the bars are convenient, but pricey. I believe that covers the high and low points. Not much else to say other than the staff are all friendly, helpful and in many cases pretty funny. We even had a favorite bartender, despite the fact that they move locations, daily. There are golf cart shuttles to get you around when tired. This place rocks for young and old. Oh yeah and they are also pushing a vacation time-share deal. This place may be the only place I've ever been to that I would even consider such a thing. I KNOW I'll be back at least once a year until LP is a teen-ager and refuses to be seen with her parents. Then? Well, maybe PW and I will still come...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Hewlett-Packard Pavilion dv2810us notebook

Not only what I would consider a good deal, the Hewlett-Packard Pavilion Laptop series, in my opinion, has been consistently the best, low-to-medium priced laptop series on the market for the past few years. Don't have 2-3 grand to drop on new laptop? Check out the Pavilion series. Last break I purchased my second Pavilion series and much like the first, it offers specs, features and performance found on it's higher-priced brothers from another mother.

My first Pavilion was the flagship 17" dv8000 model, prized for it's 17" ultra-bright widescreen and cherished for it's full keyboard and Quickplay (tm) buttons. It crunched numbers with a respectable (for the time) 1.83 GHz processor, had a ton of USB ports and came with a little media remote control that had it's own garage in the side of the laptop. My laptop came with a fucking garage and my house didn't! All this for well under $1,000.00.

Despite a few operational headaches (what computer is headache-free?) and the DVD combo drive burning out on me after 2 years, I immediately went back for more, this time around. This particular laptop purchase was motivated and restricted by the need for a lightweight and compact machine due to weight and space restrictions placed on me when traveling on small, foreign flights and especially the helicopters used to fly on and off my ships. My last rig, ensconced in it's wheeled, carry-on weighed in at a whopping 29 pounds! This, with charger, some CD's batteries, work files, book, etc., but way too heavy when I need to pack for 5-7 weeks and am limited to a total of 34 pounds. That doesn't leave much room for socks, underwear and toothpaste...

So, I went to the smaller Pavilions and liked what I saw at less than 6 pounds. Armed with this knowledge, I employed the awesome might of the Interwebs and Google, searching out every damn laptop under 7 pounds available at a TigerDirect, Circuit City, or Wally World near you. Three grand seemed to be some sort of magic number for ultra-light laptop/notebooks that came properly outfitted. I was not impressed. Additionally, many of these Vista-powered machines sported a measly 1GB RAM. A quick review of any Vista forum will inform you that Vista needs to eat damn near 1GB RAM just to sit there and look pretty. Armed with the knowledge that I didn't want, or need a $3,000.00 anchor, even if I do work at sea, I finally went back to the Pavilions.

I quickly listed a few suitably decked-out models, did some comparison shopping, reviewed the available, um, reviews and even ploughed through a few forums to glean as much helpful information as possible. I nearly settled on a special edition Pavillion that boasted 4GB RAM and a 250 GB hard-drive, but then came up against the reality that I had such a bad experience buying my last two computers online that I didn't have the balls to fork out more than the five bucks I dished out to the Death Chic(k) for this year's deathpool. Even my last Interwebs purchase of flowers for my oldest son's GF (no, I wasn't seducing her-he used my credit card, dammit) was responsible for my credit card being cancelled when the online flower company was hacked for customer credit card information.

This caused me to re-evaluate everything. You see, I live, well, really in the middle of nowhere, or at least in a place that isn't on the way to anywhere and is therefore sort of nowhere by default. Nowheresville has exactly four places that sell computers. Wally World, the pawn shop, a computer service store and an Office Max. Wally World sells 2 laptops, both totally unsuitable for my needs, configured wrong, lacking in RAM and over-priced. The pawnshop did have a hammer drill I wanted, but no laptops this time around. Used computers often come with the most interesting files and sometimes a boat-load of porn, by the way. The computer service store offered to build me a laptop at the same Pavilion specs I wanted- for $4,800.00 and my left nut, which by the way is still slightly swollen from my vasectomy and after that fiasco is worth more than it's weight in gold. Left with Office Max, I can't say I had any hope of escaping the possibility that some Glock toting dickhead with gold teeth was going to end up with my credit card info for the price of a 5-dollar rock and buy an Escalade with it.

Resolute, but disheartened,I made the trek through the wilderness to Office Max. I was more than pleasantly surprised to find they actually had a few laptops and joy, oh joy, several Pavilions, all suitably spec'd. I spent the mandatory 10 minutes politely listening to the sales kid reading off the description card while pretending to know which end of computer he'd like to loose his virginity to, memorized the specs and prices, respectfully replied, "Whatever" to his monologue, then left. The next day I stomped back in, prepared to tell the kid to shut his pie-hole and go get me the damn laptop. He wouldn't come near me and after whispering to another sales clerk, the second guy cautiously approached and asked if he could be of assistance. I asked him exactly two questions that couldn't be answered from the little card on the shelf and when he couldn't answer them, I asked for the damn box and made my way to the cashier.

Why do I mention the whole buying experience as part of the review? I just like to complain about the seemingly endless line of incompetent mohans (thats "morons" for those of you who don't know LP) that pass for sales clerks and customer service reps that try to tell me things I already know, or completely talk out of there asses about things they know absolutely nothing about. End rant.

I purchased the Hewlett-Packard Pavilion dv2810us model. This 14.1", Brightview widesceeen laptop comes spec'd with 3GB DDR2 RAM (660 MHz), (2) 2.0 GHz AMD Turion (tm) 64 X2 TL-60 processors with 1 MB L2 cache, offering 32-bit processing, but 64-bit capable, (512KB + 512KB), NVIDIA GeForce GO 7150M graphics and 1071MB of total available graphics memory, a 250 GB, 5400 RMP hard drive, dual-layer, Lightscribe (tm) combination DVD/CD burner/reader, built-in web cam and integrated mic, 5-in-1 card reader, Quickplay buttons, remote and built-in 802.11G wireless LAN and Bluetooth. It operates under Microsoft's Windows Vista Home Premium and arrives almost devoid of all the freeware/trial version/internet service crap that most computers are completely saturated with out of the box.

Thin and light, it weighs in at 5.3 pounds and about average thickness for the ultra-light laptop crowd. Still, it remains solid and sturdy, boasting an especially stiffly opening screen. The screen is bright and clear, even on battery power, but glare is an issue in certain light. The dual AMD TL-60's offer good speed and should even power some of the higher-end games, but with the installed graphics, high-end gaming is not for this machine.

I love the Quickplay feature with a row of controls that will boot up only the Quickplay software, allowing you to watch DVD movies without powering up the whole box and booting Windows. This, in theory should extend battery life for say, movie viewing on my 39 hours of flying to work:) The little remote and it's garage are also a nice plus. The Lightscribe drives make pretty disk labels and a combo drive is the only way to go until CDs are a thing of the past. This would be the only negative for me, as the DVD drive in my last Pavilion prompted, in part, this purchase, yet here I am again, with the same drive.

The 250 GB hard drive is more than enough space to haul around 50GB music, 40 GB of ripped movies and 100GB of porn, while allowing for a few dozen extra programs and 3 files for work;) Vista runs the whole show pretty well and while I was extremely reluctant to purchase a Vista machine, after a couple of weeks I'm finding it fairly stable with a few useful features such as the software monitor, Defender, and its Network and Sharing Center. I'm used to the differences and quirks and have disabled that annoying "do you want to allow this?" feature.

All in all, at under $800.00 it is a steal of a deal. You cannot buy these specs and features in a laptop that weighs under 6 pounds unless it's hot, or used. I added a two-year unconditional warranty from Office Max, and purchased a back-up, 12 cell battery, which when inserted, jacks the laptop up like a hot rod from the 70's. It gives me a total of over 6 hours of what I would call "plane use", that is multi-tasking, music-listening, DVD watching I do on a plane.

It's inexpensive, reliable, stylish, lightweight and sturdy, with good performance. If this is your bag, then the Hewlett-Packard Pavilion dv2800 series should be your box.

The image above, from Hewlett-Packard, makes it look damn nice, which it is. However, this is what it looks like in real life, sitting on my desk.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dr. Bronner's killer soaps (and some other things)

I found Dr. Bronner and his Magic Soaps quite by accident. Literally. Back in 2006, some of you might remember I spent nearly 2 months in Alaska, working the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. While out there, I accidentally smeared a bunch of grease on my hands in the dressing room next to the sauna. There in the shower stall sat a bottle of Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Liquid Soap. I used it to clean my hands and enjoyed the scent, immensely. After asking around, I discovered that one of the Marine Mammal Watchers (people that sit up top and watch for whales, while talking about birds and drinking herbal tea) left it when departing the ship early. A few days later I tried it in the shower after a sauna. Good shit, mon.

Reading the label while showering, I became quite baffled and intrigued. The stuff was the best damn soap I've ever tried (beside those oatmeal orange peel bars you used to get me, honey), but the writing bordered on the truly bizarre. Quasi-religious in nature and at times nonsensical, it seemed the writing of a madman and no explanation was given as to why the entire bottle was covered in dozens of these phrases, crammed all over in small text. Can you read all that tiny text in the blown up image of the label?

Curiosity piqued I hit the Interwebs and found the website and the story of Dr. Bronner-a real, live dude. Except he passed away a while ago. I won't give away the whole story and it's not mine to tell, but he invented the soaps out of a desire to stick to a certain and all-natural method of soap-making and used his money to do some very good things, despite having a slightly skewed vision of the world (in my humble opinion). Suffice to say he was cool cat, who made killer soaps and did some righteous deeds.

I've been using his soaps ever since and have found that while they have MANY uses, I prefer them as soap and shampoo (it not only works great, but saves me room and weight when traveling to have my soap and shampoo in one and CONCENTRATED, to boot). The liquid soaps come in sizes ranging from 2oz to 1 gallon and are also available as bar soap (For my regular readers: as in a bar of soap, not the kind of soap you find in the bathroom at the bar!). You can dilute the soaps and use them for just about anything, including brushing your teeth! For a list of uses and dilutions, you can hit FAQ's and there will also learn about the term "castille", why organic is great, ingredients of their various products and why they are used. There is so much information on Dr. Bronner's website, there is just too much too list.

To wrap this up, I highly recommend all of Dr. Bronner's products as a safe and healthy alternative to washing your hair and body with chemicals you cannot pronounce. They make liquid soaps, bar soap, lip balm, creams, gels and even snacks (though I think you can eat, or drink everything they make. Really) The all-natural ingredients make these products especially safe and healthy for your children and I can tell you, LP LOVES the peppermint!! The company itself is still run by family, is refreshingly concerned about the environment and takes good care of it's employees. They also are actively involved in charitable activities around the world and in general are very socially responsible. Their products are also all reasonably-priced and if not available at your local hippie and eco-warrior supply store, can be purchased online from their website.

For the record, I brought out an 8 oz bottle of Dr. Bronner's Citrus Liquid Soap and had the remains of my last 16oz bottle of peppermint already onboard. As an example, here's the ingredients for the Citrus Liquid Soap:Water, Saponfied Organic Coconut Oil*, Saponified Organic Olive Oil*, Organic Glycerin, Organic Cannabis Sativa (Hemp) Seed Oil, Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Organic Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Organic Citrus Medica Limonum

And for those you from the toke em up generation, did you notice it's got Indinca's western-hemisphere cousin inside the bottle? Good times:)

UPDATE: I've just recently used the Citrus Liquid Soap I brought out as soap and shampoo. IT ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!! I've also just tried two new uses: First, the Liquid Citrus soap as a shaving cream. Dyn-o-mite! I was much better than the Edge(TM) I always use. Yet another product to be replaced by Dr. Bronner's after one trial use. Next, I tried the Peppermint Liquid Soap as toothpaste! Well, I have to say it did an especially good job, I felt I had squeaky-clean teeth. However, the taste was rather bland, unlike the smell and for some odd reason the aftertaste strongly reminded me of hash oil and it was hard to get rid of:( Nonetheless, Dr. Bronner's is the ticket, folks.