Random Firings of Neurons

The rest of your life is going to be spent getting back up after life has knocked you down again. You might as well just get used to it.

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Location: Round Rock, Texas, United States

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Some reviews to make up for not posting....

Okay, since it's been a while since I've actually...you know...posted anything, I'm going to do some reviews, to (hopefully) get myself back in the swing of things. Not promising anything, but...I'm going to give a good college try.

Review 1: Music

I'm not exactly the 'normal' music fan. I have very eclectic tastes, and may like a 'lesser' song or musician from a particular genre, while not liking the 'better' songs or musicians. In addition, I happen to like some musicians and music that most people don't exactly brag about liking, like Barry Manilow or Celine Dion. Because of that, many times, my favorite albums are the albums most despised by 'true' music fans: "Best Of..." albums. They have the songs I like, and don't have quite as many songs I don't.

All that being said, I think I've found two of the "Best Of..." albums that are near required for just about anyone over the age of 30. They are "60s Gold" and "Ultimate 70s", both published by Time-Life. They're anthologies of songs that pretty much defined those two decades, but, NOT the most popular songs of those decades. Trust me, if you grew up in the 70s and 80s, these two albums have almost every song that lurks deep in your conscious from that time period. They're about $35 apiece, but...they're worth it. Each set (each one is three CDs) is a trip down memory lane.

Out of 114 songs between the two sets, I have 99 of them on my music playlist. 99 out of 114. 86% of the songs are on my playlist. I have albums from some of my favorite bands that don't have that high of a percentage of songs that are at least "won't change the station if the song is on".

Here's a partial list of the 'must have' (to me) songs from each set:

60s Gold:

Classical Gas-Mason Williams (if you've been to a movie theater in the past 20 years, you've probably heard the entire song...just not all at one time)
Windy and Along Comes Mary-The Association (those two songs are almost enough to get me to hunt for a "Best Of The Association" album...)
The Rain, The Park, and Other Things-The Cowsills (if you're my age, you know the song, even if you don't know it by the title)
American Pie-Don McLean (best rock song ever written...easy to get on other anthologies, though)
(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay-Otis Redding (obscure minor trivia about me...I've been to his birth place and death place: Savannah, GA, and Lake Monona in Madison, WI, respectively.)
Monday, Monday and California Dreamin'-The Mamas and the Papas (top ten greatest harmonies EVER...hard to say who's better, the Mamas and the Papas, or The Association)
Bus Stop-The Hollies (...how does a band sound change its sound THAT many times, and sound so good each time?! They'll appear again...)

Ultimate 70s.

Nights in White Satin-Moody Blues (not actually enough to get me to buy the album...Days of Future Past and Best of the Moody Blues are both common, and have this song, plus a bunch of others that are just as good. Best of Moody Blues is practically Days of Future Past, though...almost all of their hits came of that album)
Stuck in the Middle With You-Stealers Wheel (...can't hear this song without thinking of Mr Pink and that stupid little dance...and what follows)
Werewolves of London-Warren Zevon (thankfully, I don't remember Tom Cruise's stupid dance to this song)
Smoke on the Water-Deep Purple
Still the One-Orleans
Dust in the Wind-Kansas (most bands, if this was their only hit, could call it a career...Kansas kept going)
Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)-The Hollies (told you they'd show up again)
He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother-The Hollies (...HOW!?)

Those are just the songs I'd consider paying money for. There are quite a few others that I wouldn't pay money for, but, am certainly not upset I got them thrown in.

Basically, Time-Life did a great job finding not the most popular songs of those two decades, but, most of the most memorable songs. If you even remotely enjoyed the music of your childhood and are in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, you should consider buying these two sets. They're worth it.

Review 2: Coffee makers.

For Christmas, my sister bought me a Senseo coffee maker. I wanted to try one, but, didn't want to shell out the money ($60) for something I wasn't sure I'd like. The reviews I'd read of the Senseo were too subjective to be useful to me. Almost every review I read mentioned how strong the coffee was, and that you had to make several cups with the same pods to get a drinkable cup. But, what if I LIKE strong coffee?!

After using the Senseo for six months, I can say definitely "It's worth the money". It's not a perfect cup of coffee, but, it's FAR better than you'd find in ANY restaurant or coffee shop. The quibbles I have with it are easily balanced out by the things I like about it.

Quibbles:

Senseo's definition of "a cup of coffee" and my definition are approximately 150% off. Senseo considers a "cup of coffee" to be 4 oz. I consider a cup of coffee to be, minimum, 10 oz, preferably 16 oz. So, I have rarely used the "one cup" button. Because of this, I go through the pods at an obscene rate. (One pod makes one cup, two pods make two cups) There are either 16 or 18 pods per bag (flavored coffees have 16 pods per bag, regular coffee has 18 per bag), and I use two pods per cup of coffee...that means I go through several bags every weekend day, and a bag every two or three days during the week. The bags of pods are about $4 a piece, for 4 oz of grounds, making the pods about $16 a pound. That's a little steep for coffee. Not unreasonable, but...a little steep.

The water reservoir is...tiny. It only holds enough water for two cups of coffee (my cups...it holds 4 cups of Senseo's cups). You can buy a larger reservoir...for $20 more. Hm. I'm not sure if it's worth paying another $20 to have not fill the reservoir every two cups of coffee...but, it sure is a pain having to fill it every two cups.

One pod per Senseo cup makes coffee on the low end of "Highly drinkable". Two pods per Senseo cup makes coffee right at the middle of "Highly drinkable". Two pods per Senseo cup means I'm using 4 pods per my cup of coffee...that's 4 of my cups of coffee per bag of pods, at $3 a bag...that's a bit steep for even really good coffee.

Likes:

Highly drinkable coffee less than three minutes after I have the hankerin' for a cup of coffee. It takes about 2 minutes for the water to warm up, and about 1 minute for the coffee to brew after that. After the water is warmed up, you have a cup of coffee every minute or so, for as long as you keep the pods changed and reservoir filled. Mmmm....coffee.

For $10 and some hunting, you can buy your own reusable pod, so you can use your own ground coffee in the Senseo. It's not easy to do, and it takes A LOT of experimenting to find the right measurements and grind to get it down to where you like it, but, once you do, it can be worth it. Kenyan coffee on demand....mmmm....coffee.

I make a better cup of coffee with a grinder, beans and a drip coffee maker. It also takes me 20 minutes to get coffee when I do that. Hm....20 minutes for great coffee versus 3 minutes for *only* darn good coffee. I'll take "Darn Good Coffee in 3 Minutes" for $100, please, Alex.

If you like good, strong coffee, and don't really like waiting for it, the Senseo is the gizmo for you. The Black and Decker Home Cafe is pretty much the same beast, with a slightly different set up. If you're careful, you can even use the pods interchangeably (the Folger's pods for the Home Cafe are just a hair thicker than the Douwe Egbert pods for the Senseo...you can feel the pressure on the hinge when you close the top.).

All told, the prices associated with either the Home Cafe or Senseo are worth it, for the convenience. It's not the greatest cup of coffee you'll ever drink, but, it's darn good, and it's darn quick. Would I spend close to $100 to buy one (after all the add-ons), just to have coffee quickly? Yup.

Ok, that's it, for now. Maybe in the next couple of days, I'll get some more stuff up.

Semper Fidelis: Always Faithful, to God, Corps and Country