Archive for the ‘ Reviews ’ Category

{Product Review} Epson LabelWorks LW-400 Label Printer

Great Alternative to Brother Label Printers

I had always thought of Epson as a printer company.  As in you bought their printers for computer to print documents or photos…things like that.  I suppose it only makes since that they got into the label printing market too.

I had always used Brother brand label printers at work and I had been relatively happy with them, they printed labels for things that I needed to have labeled.  Well I have to say Epson has upped the ante.

First the printer is handheld, not too heavy, but not so light that it feels cheap and crappy.  I just use the batteries and I haven’t had to change them in the several months I have used the product.  You can use an AC adapter, but I have not had too.

When cutting the labels you do have to do it manually, no automatic cutter.  Probably a good thing as it saves on battery life and it is as simple as pressing down on a tab/button.

Epson is well known for have a dearth of features for their products and the LabelWorks LW-400 is no different.  You have 14 different fonts to choose from, almost a dozen different styles, I think just about every obscure symbol you could want is in there to use too.  The printer also prints barcodes if you are that hi-tech, although that isn’t me.

The other nice feature is that when you print labels there isn’t a lot of wasted label that doesn’t get printed on.  Like when I would use a Brother label maker, sometimes I would get an inch of blank label before the text started, much less on this product.  So you do not waste the label making material.  That is a very big plus in my book.

My only real beef is that the labels feel a little thin and cheap.  I haven’t had any problems with them quality wise, none have peeled off or failed for me yet, but they are significantly thinner than other brands.  I just think that is worth noting.

Finally the labels are affordable.  Thanks goodness you can find just about any style of label you need for under $20 on Amazon.  This is great as I know the brother brand labels especially the genuine ones get real expensive, most of the time on Amazon you can find the genuine Epson labels for $17.50.

So overall I am very pleased with the product.  If does what is claims to do and it does it quite well, and I highly recommend it.  If you have a question feel free to leave a comment and I will be happy to try to respond and answer.

{Book Review} Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived

The Run-Up and Backstory to The Old Republic Online Game

This novel takes place in the time right before and during the beginning of the Star Wars Bioware game The Old Republic. The story focuses on three major characters Darth Malgus (The main antagonist from the game), Jedi Knight Aryn Leneer and smuggler Zeerid Korr.

The story begins just as the cutscene from the game begin with the Sith led by Darth Malgus attacking the Jedi temple on Coruscant. We then follow the story of our three characters as their stories all begin to intertwine.

This book is good at keeping things within the Star Wars universe and not going to far outside the box. The author has penned Star Wars related books before and is an established fantasy/science fiction writer and it shows. The characters are multidimensional and in reading the story you begin to understand their motivations for what they do, rather than they just being good guys or bad guys.

A little bit of history is shown as too what led to the run –up to the war and how it was planned, but not enough in my opinion, but then this is a book about characters more so than the struggle between the Sith and the Jedi.

Overall I enjoyed the book. I found it to be a fun read and it fits well into the Star Wars universe and if you are a fan of the new Bioware game based on the Old Republic I think you might enjoy this book as well.

If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.

{Book Review} Kahuna Kevin’s Why is the Rum Gone? By Kahuna Kevin

Why's the Rum Gone?The newer cocktail books of the Tiki genre seem to fall into one of two categories nowadays, one type of book tends to be a well researched tome of full old tiki drink recipes.  The drinks crafted by the patriarchs of tiki decades ago and secretly passed down until revealed today in all their glory.  The other type of book is usually a kitschy collection of (Usually over) simple and (Usually over) sweet recipes complied for the casual home drinker who doesn’t want to spend the time or the money to craft truly complex and tasty drinks.

This is where Kahuna Kevin comes in and offers us a glorious and refreshing third-way in “Why is the Rum Gone?”  Kevin has taken up the banner of the tiki drink-makers of old by crafting original, innovative, complex and most importantly tasty rum based cocktails.  The drinks in his book are not for the faint of heart or weak of liver.  You will often have drinks with over ten ingredients, and many a time they will call for somewhat obscure (Yet still readily available online and in big liquor stores) ingredients.  But when the long and winding recipes are followed you are often treated to magical and mysterious rum based libation that is sure to put your mind at ease and liver on red alert.

My only mild criticism of the book and its recipes is that author is very specific in his ingredients, almost always requesting certain brands and ages of rums, syrups and mixers.  While this is good for providing an accurate replication of the drink as it was developed in the Kahuna’s Tiki Test Labs is can make some drinks a daunting task to round up all the required recipes.  Perhaps calling for slightly more generalized genres of rum would make for a more accessible and serviceable ingredients list.

But baring that one suggestion I am very impressed with Kahuna Kevin’s book and the included recipes.  With forty original concoctions from the “Addled Wench” to the “Unassuming Bastard” you are sure to find something to tickle the taste buds, soothe the nerves and probably kill some brain cells too.  I encourage you to pick up this book if you want some truly original tiki cocktail recipes made in the spirit of what the original tiki drink makers had in mind for their drinks and their patrons.

{Book Review} Hi-de-ho : The Life of Cab Calloway by Alyn Shipton

To put it simply this is the definitive Cab Calloway biography.  I don’t think anywhere else you will find a better researched or better documented book about the jazz legend.  The author had the arduous job or researching and writing about a larger than life character with a huge stage persona who actually lead a very private life.  Shipton has done an excellent job sourcing out every interview with the legend himself and talking with as many sidemen, friends and family as possible to give us an idea of what Cab Calloway was really like.  Easily one of the most charismatic and entertaining band leaders of all time Calloway deserves and receives excellent treatment in this book.  I had always considered myself a fan of Calloway ever since I saw him in the Blues Brothers movie as a young child and my fascination with him grew as I got older, I would search out magazine articles and excerpts in book when I could find them about the Jazz Pioneer.  But I never found a well written comprehensive telling of his life story till now.  For anyone interested in the man Cab Calloway I cannot recommend this book anymore highly, and also if you are interested in the era of Cab’s existence and the racial issues of the early to mid 20th century jazz scene this book is also well worth reading, I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

{Book Review} America the Edible by Adam Richman

I am not going to lie, when I first got this book I was a bit skeptical.  What was I to expect in a book written by a guy who I only knew from watching him eat very large amounts of food all over the country?  Well what I got was actually a very fun and light hearted read.

This book really amounts to sort of an early life memoir and travel guide from Adam Richman.  In the text he basically covers his young adult life as he traveled across the country for various reasons and the food memorable food encounters he had during that time.  From New York to St. Louis to Los Angeles, Richman hits many major cities and discovers much of their authentic cuisine.  Each chapter focuses on a different city and his memorable eating experiences while staying there.  At the end of each chapter he offers a few “Must Visit” places and one recipe that for him sums up his experience with the town.

The book was fun to read as Adam seems to be a light hearted and funny guy who just happens to have great times with regular food that you and I could have too.  None of the places he talks about are haute cuisine or restaurants that will require a reservation two months ahead.  They are all average joe type places you and I could visits and the collection of recipes he offers are all quite easy for any normal home chef.

In the end I recommend the book, not just for the food recommendation and handful of recipes, but also for the fun stories.

{Book Review} Speakeasy by Jason Kosmas & Dushan Zaric

For the Master Mixologist in You.

I have never had a drink at the Employee’s Only Bar in New York, but I have read about and talked to those who have, and I hear only good things.  Employee’s Only appears to be one of the new wave of cocktail bars truly dedicated to not just respecting the cherished history of the cocktail but also moving things forward and I think that is evident in their cocktail recipe book “Speakeasy”.

I say that they look to the past and the future because of the way they have structured the book.  Going through the pages you will find recipes for classic cocktails such as the Manhattan, Martinez, Sidecar, and Negroni and on the following page you will find an Employee’s Only version that either ups the complexity or takes the drink in an exciting new direction.  So not only do you get the great classic recipes, but you also get a new version to try or even inspire your own experiments.

Most recipes do refer to the spirit ingredients by brand name, but almost all of the brand names mentioned are fairly easy to find.  In the re-invented cocktails there is the healthy use of homemade or infused ingredients, thankfully there is an appendix in the back of the book with directions for the production of such ingredients.

So while making some of these cocktails may require a bit of work to get the required ingredients together or produced I have found that I am almost always rewarded by something complex, tasty, and smooth.

In conclusion I guess I would say that if you are a serious drinker and you like real cocktails and you are willing to work for them then this is a great book for you.  Produced by people whom I would consider true mixologists, this book gives you an idea on how they think and approach their craft by adjusting classic recipes and creating new ones.  I have enjoyed this book and I hope you will too.

{Book Review} A Taste for Absinthe by R. Winston Guthrie

I was really looking forward to this book “A Taste For Absinthe, 65 Recipes for Classic & Contemporary Cocktails” by R. Winston Guthrie with James F. Thompson; but this book didn’t really knock my socks off, but was still a solid effort.  Allow me to elaborate:

I would venture to say the book itself is organized into seven major sections; an absinthe primer, classic absinthe recipes, fruit & citrus related absinthe recipes, whiskey & gin related absinthe recipes, liqueurs & bitters related absinthe recipes, modern classics & cutting edge absinthe recipes and an absinthe buying guide.

I will move from back to front.

I found the Absinthe Buying Guide to be a bit inadequate, while they do list 18 different absinthes; there were some omissions that surprised me (La Muse Verte, St. George, etc.).  And instead of giving recommendations (As I would think a buying guide should) instead you are given a website, the name of importer, style, ABV, distillery name, a vague price indicator and a short description.  For what was described as a buying guide, I was a bit disappointed.

Overall when looking at all the recipes in the book I have neither great praise nor complaint.  The recipes vary from relatively simple to complex.  In the ingredient lists for most recipes the products are called for by name brand name.  Normally I wouldn’t consider this a big deal, but when your average bottle of absinthe runs from $45 to $85 it seems a little silly.  There are several recipes however that just call for just absinthe or blanche absinthe.

I am however happy to report that the majority of the recipes were new to me, of course I was familiar to most of the classic recipes listed in the same named section.  So if you are looking for a good collection of new absinthe related cocktail recipes then this book may work out for you.  Also peppered throughout the book are one page “A Moment In Absinthe History” essays.  I found these to be sometimes interesting little snippets of absinthe history that I may or may not have already known.

The absinthe primer at the beginning of the book is probably the best conceived and executed section of the book.  While very little of the information was new to me, I felt it was a well-organized and well laid out introduction to the spirit.  I would easily recommend reading this section for anyone who wanted to learn the basics about absinthe and its production and range or types.

So to conclude, while I would not considered this a new classic cocktail book is still a very solid effort towards collecting and compiling the best of the absinthe related recipes out there right now.  For a non-absinthe fan you would probably want to skip this book, but if you have a passion of love for the green fairy then this belongs on your bookshelf.

{Book Review} Boozehound by Jason Wilson

By Jason WilsonFun, Informative, and about Booze!

I think if I died and was reincarnated I would want to come back as Jason Wilson.  That man has a job of traveling to drink and write about various distilled spirits, what a gig!  The nice thing is that author realizes he is pretty lucky to be a “Lifestyle Journalist” and he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

This book “Boozehound,” comes off as part memoir, part travel log, part spirits review and part cocktail recipe book.  And in all those things it makes for a fun read.  Wilson takes on a trip through his past while commenting on learning to taste and understand the flavors in spirits.  He discusses cocktail snobs, searching for lost spirits and liqueurs, the great stories (True or not) behind many beloved alcohol brands, the world of Italian bitter drinks, a whole chapter on aquavit, terroir and its effect on spirits, and much more.

At the end of each chapter the author always gives out a handful of cocktail recipes, which are neither recipes that you have seen a hundred times before or amazingly complex examples of molecular mixology.  They are just straightforward recipes that use the ingredients discussed in the proceeding chapter and out of the ones I have made they have been pretty good.

So while this book seems to cross many genres, part cocktail history book, alcoholic travel log, spirit critique and tasting notes, humor, and personal history I found it an enjoyable read; I learned a lot and had a great time reading it.  If you are interested in this kind of stuff then you will like the book too, and if you have a friend or family member who enjoys the history and stories behind different spirits, then I think they may like this book to.  I recommend it.

Music Review: Balls in Your Face by Lee Press-On & the Nails

Lee Press-On Nails Ballroom Music!

Well what can you expect from an album that is titled “Balls in Your Face”?  Wait, do not answer that, just let me tell you.  What you do get is another fun album from Lee Press-On that focuses on Waltz’s and Ballroom Music in general.  I am sure you have always wondered what Ozzy’s “Mr. Crowley” would sound like as a Tango; and I am just as sure you have spent nights awake thinking what Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” would sound like if it were a Polka.  Well wonder no more and download this album.  Also included is the fan favorite at live shows, “The Congress of Vienna Waltz”!

But I digress.  If you are a fan of the music and humor of Lee and the Nails then I feel like you will enjoy this album.  If you are a fan of obscure covers of ballroom music, you too may enjoy this album.  If you take yourself or ballroom dancing very seriously, get away, get away quickly, listening to this music may cause you to have fun or possibly even be considered hype.  You have been warned.  So in conclusion, I have enjoyed the latest music endeavor from Lee Press-On & the Nails and I hope you will too. Purchase or listen tot it here:

Balls In Your Face

Book Review: WAR by Sebastian Junger

Taking you inside the American soldier’s mind in Afghanistan

I have read several books and accounts of both the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and I feel secure is saying that Junger does a better job of taking you inside the mind of a soldier then anything else I have read, even solders’ own personal accounts of the war.

The author spent time with the same group of soldiers in remote Afghanistan off and on over a period of 15 months.  During this time he went out on patrols with them, was with them during firefights, and endured endless hours of boredom.  And he was really able to translate what it was like to be there with them and what those men were going through.

Junger broke down his book into three themes/parts: Fear, Killing and Love.  And each part of the book sort of focused on that theme in the soldiers daily life from fear of dying or failing fellow soldiers, to killing enemies, and the love soldiers had for each other and for fighting.

All in all I really enjoyed reading this book.  It can be a little tough to follow at times unless you can get a mental picture of the geography of the land Junger talks about.  As the action takes place in an area of hills and valleys in Afghanistan.  Also the author has a tendency to flash forward and flash back a little bit when telling a story and that can disrupt the narrative a little bit, but other than those two minor quibbles I found the book to be very engrossing, intriguing, informative and overall entertaining.  If you are interested in books about on the ground modern warfare I think you will enjoy this book.