MYVU Is just that: My View on whatever strikes me. It may be a item I have used or something I saw. This section is just my putting these thoughts down for myself and anyone else who might be curious.



Futuro Wrist Support with Cushioning Beads Review

On a trip to Boston last year I found that I had neglected to pack my two braces. Being there only a few nights I tried to do without the first night and it was terrible. The following morning I picked up a pair of these at a well known three lettered drug store.

I have worn four different brands/types of braces for carpal tunnel. These are by far the most comfortable and worked better for me than any other brace I had tried.

Before I started wearing braces the only remedy I had was either constantly getting up during the night and shaking out my hands or. if only one hands was really causing a problem that night, sleeping on my stomach and letting that arm hang straight down; oddly that relived the pain.

I first thought that the little pillow that sits in the palm of your hand was more of a useless gimmick but I was quite surprised how effective it was. The difference in a nights sleep with these as opposed to the others I have worn was very obvious.

All the braces of this type utilize one or more metal and/or plastic supports to stiffen your wrist while you sleep. You may not realize it, but when you sleep your hands curl in at the wrist. For most folks this really does not cause a problem, however for people who have performed repetitive wrist movements over a number of years it can lead to serious discomfort.

The Carpal Tunnel is a sheath like tunnel in your wrist which has a main nerve (median nerve) to your hand going through it. The long term repetitive motions cause that sheath to thicken and in turn constricts the nerve when the wrist/hand is in certain positions; the above mentioned curled sleeping position is one of them. You wake up with your hand un-functional, tingling fingers or, as I experience, feeling as though your fingers are on fire and want to explode. It makes for a very long uncomfortable night indeed.

The purpose of the supports in the braces then is to inhibit the curling action of your wrist while you sleep. These braces have the usual beefy metal piece which is formed to the shape under your hand. However where I have always had the problem of the metal brace digging into my palm while I slept and my hand pushed against the brace, these little beany pillows have totally taken care of that. For this reason alone I love them.

Another great thing is that the brace fits either hand; no longer do you have to fish through the racks to try and find the correct hand.

The material is also very comfortable to wear; flexible and form fits around your arm and wrist wonderfully. Everything about these braces was well thought out – except for one thing.


The Achilles’ heel of these braces is in the fastening system. Like every brace of the this type I know of they use a hook and loop method to close around your wrist. The stiffer hook part of the fastening system however mates not to a sewn on strip of the loop material but to the brace itself. The outside of braces are made from two different materials; a stretchy ribbed piece for the top of the hand and a fuzzy fleece like piece for the underside of the hand. The hooked tabs lock onto this fuzzy part of the brace – quiet effectively at first but only after four months or so I started to see that where the hooked tabs mated to the brace body was beginning to fray which meant that they no longer held on as well. After a couple more months the hooked tapes would come loose during the night. To make it even more disappointing, on my wrist, the hooked tabs catch where there are a series of vent holes; the pulling loose of the material has exposed the inner shell of the brace and has me concerned that this will cause the braces to eventually tear here.

At this point the braces loosen up every night; the hooked tabs having less to grab no longer fit flush to the brace so they stick up a bit and detach when my hand just rubs up against something.

My wife and I have been examining the braces with the desire to attach a new strip of material for the hooks to bond to. The very small size of the hooks has made a bit of a challenge however to find something as effective. I hope that we can find something soon.

Although, at this price, the braces are for their effectiveness and comfort a great buy, and I do not regret purchasing them, the self destructive design is bothersome.

I have read of one person who was able to wear these, for reasons other than Carpal Tunnel, loose enough that they could just slip them on and off like a glove and not have to constantly attach and release the fasteners.  Alas, I do need them to be tight, and my hands are too big to just slip them into the braces.

Below are a couple of photos of the braces as they are now

This photo, taken from the side of the braces not involved in the fastening system,  shows how the vent holes start, well defined, with plenty of the blue outer shell surrounding them.

This a photo showing how the blue outer shell has lost its integrity, is pilling and pulling away from the inner shell. Because of this the hook part of the catch straps can not grab tightly and work free during the night.


– They are half the price and twice as effective and comfortable as the prescription braces I had worn.

– They have got to come up with a better way of locking them on your wrist. The self destructive design makes them almost worthless after only a half a years nightly use.




Bunny Boots

Bunny Boots Review

Years back my father passed down to me these big black clunky boots that he had had for many many years.
What inspired him to do so was the brutal snowy winter we were having that year; my leather boots, and feet, were having a hard time staying dry.
These boots were kinda like duck boots, all rubber on the outside, had a heavy felt/wool lining, and made my feet look twice as big. they were pretty warm though, and they did keep my feet dry. I wore them a few winters before they started falling apart.
This year I have been out every snowy day with the snow thrower and I started to miss those boots. I have been wearing a pair of Kirkland boots I got 2 years back at Costco – which are really good boots by the way. One concern I have had though is when they get wet; I wanted something like the old clunky things my father gave me.

So I did a little hunting around on the internet for winter boots – which there is no shortage of varieties you will be happy to know.
I read many dozens of reviews on many different sites bouncing here and there on recommendations I found in reviews for boots other than the ones they were reviewing and one boot kept popping up: the Bunny Boot.

The Bunny Boot, and its brother the Mickey Boot, are US military issue Extreme Cold Weather Boots. In fact the Bunny Boot is more of a Uber-Extreme Cold Weather Boot. The boots get there names from the way they look on your feet. The Mickey boots are big black clunky things that make you look like you have the lovable rodents feet. The Bunny Boots are big white clunky things that make your feet look like the hind foot of a rabbit.

Now you might think that they are big and clunky becasue the military, not really a fashion conscious group, just designs things big and clunky but you would be mistaken. These boots are super insulated with the Mickey Boots rated at about -20F and the Bunny Boots I have read from -40F to -60F (a real weenie shrinker either way). The Bunny Boot is what the military issues to the folks in everyone’s favorite vacation destination: Antarctica. They are also very popular on the other pole as well; from what I have read from people up north, they are also called Alaskan Slippers by the hearty folk way up there.

To give you a idea about how well they are insulated I stole this photo from a neat new blog here on Word Press called Living In Tok:

All that padding makes for a beefy shoe, let me tell you. How beefy? Well, here are a few shots side by side with one of my Kirkland boots. Both are size 11.

The BB’s are basically all rubber inside and out with a nice smooth canvas lining on the inside. Unlike the normal leather boots which hug your feet these are very roomy inside; plenty of space for a thick pair of socks should you want to wear them. In fact the extra space inside reminds me of when I wear my wooden shoes.

I was eager to try them on when FedEx dropped them on my door step and was wearing them 15 minutes after that. It was a pretty cold that day and I could feel it when I put them on. It took a bit before they warmed up being cold from sitting in the delivery van for who knows how long. But when they did warm up my feet stayed nice and toasty.

On real cold days I can feel the cold from the concrete in my garage seeping through the soles of my shoes but not at all wearing the BB’s.
When I first put them on It kept feeling like I had a small stone in my sock or shoe by the heel. On closer examination I found that it was a small area of the canvas was in a little ball right in the center of the heel part of the shoe. I worked it out and have not had any discomfort since.
You are going to want to wear these things with your pants tucked in them. The top of the boot is very wide and almost impossible to pull fully closed, at least for me so far, but that gives you that extra room for your pants. Wearing your pants in the boot will probably keep the stiff upper of the boot from chaffing your leg raw as well.

Wearing them out and about doing my errands I got quite a few startled stares from people who’s eyes were drawn down to my feet  …the fact that I was wearing shorts in 20 degree weather probably caught there eye as well. ;o)

I am still waiting for a good snowy day to put them to the test, but I think that I can safely say that these are going to be great cold weather boots.

One note: There is a little metal valve on each boot which should be kept closed. From what I gather it was put there for folks who go up in an unpressurized aircraft; I guess the boots, will explode otherwise.

The boots, Mickey and Bunny, are available from many army surplus stores and web sites in both used and unissued condition. Some folks warned about how some places sell boots that have been sliced, so be careful to check that out when you buy them.  I found quiet a variance in prices and finally settled on these on a site called Load Up. The prices there depend on the size you order, starting at about $50, mine went for a little over $70 with shipping and that was cheaper than some other sites I looked at. The folks at the site were nice to deal with; when I sent a email inquiring about the shipping status of the boots I received a pleasant reply within 24 hours. They had a number of options for paying including PayPal. Since the transaction went so well I would feel comfortable ordering from them again for something else.


Breckwell P4000 Classic Vermont Pellet Stove Review

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Let me start off stating that overall, after one week, we are not unhappy with this pellet stove. That said, what follows is our experience purchasing, receiving, installing and using it, along with some observations about its components.

Last June Sue and I went to Turnpike Acres Stove Sop in Ludlow Ma. and ordered our first pellet stove. Having already spent a winter in this house, and knowing how much the gas bill was going to climb feeding our gas furnace, we had decided that we needed to find an alternative, cheaper, heat source for the following winter.

We chose this model because it was not too large, and it’s old fashioned style went more with our 1920’s era home. It is a family business & the folks were patient, friendly and informative. After our order was complete they assured us that we should have the stove by august,no later than the beginning of September. It is the last week in November and we have had the stove one week.

Originally sue had chosen the nickel finish on the door. According to the folks at the stove store this was the culprit in delaying our order. Apparently the manufacturer was having issues with that particular finish. Well, okay, we can understand that somethings can be out of the distributors hands…but why are we the ones calling you every few weeks to find out way the stove inst being delivered today like you promised 3 weeks ago?

We changed the order to just the regular black finish on the door, which they said that they had on hand, and was told someone would contact us in two weeks to set up the delivery. Two weeks and a couple of days went by with no word so I went over there. It was a Friday morning and I was not in there more than 15 minutes. I showed my reciept, gave a short, curt, synopsis of the situation and asked why we had not been contacted for delivery. The young man, a son of the owner, asked if tomorrow afternoon would be okay. I told him most certainly. I would not have cared if I was scheduled for open heart surgery that day; there was no way I was going to not be there for the delivery!

He told me it would be about 2 pm and true to his word he and a partner were there at 2. He came in, surveyed the location it was to be set up in and got to work. Sue and I chose to find an alternative the the basic hearths available and had a nice piece of granite cut instead with a rounded front as opposed to the 45 degree angles on the retail versions.  After about a hour everything was set up, running and he was on his way. With the exception of a few things I found the work to be very good. First would be the foil tape the wrap around the joints: it would look a whole lot nicer if they purchased a tape that did not have large red lettering on it. Second was the installation of the imitation brick panels inside the stove. Now the problem with the panels is more the fault of the manufacturer, but the fact that he installed and left them the way he did is bothersome. Lastly, the explanation he gave me of the Trim control was entirely wrong.

The back panel has a opening in the center for the feed chute to pass through. The hole is not high enough so the panel was not sitting flush against the back of the stove. Because of this the bottom of the opening was in the path of the pellets as they were dropping into the pot. As such a numbe of pellets were bouncing off this edge and landing elsewhere in the stove. In fact a good number of them eventually fell through into the ash draw. So many ended up in the ash draw that they caught on fire. Aside from the stink of burning paint in the house I was worried that some of the electrical components may have been damaged as well but that does not seem to be the case.

With a rough metal file I increased the hieght of the opening, the panel is extremely soft, brittle even, and the problem of bouncing pellets was resolved.

My opinion about the rest of the build quality is mixed. The stove is cast Iron. The legs are cast in pairs with each sides front and rear leg being a pair. If you look at the way the foot of each leg sits you can see that they do not rest flush on the ground, I am not sure if it is poor casting or if they required grinding to remove excess flashing and were ground wrong the result though is that you can rock it back and forth a bit on the feet because they are lot truly level with each other.  The hopper door, basic sheet metal, also does not sit totally flat to the rest of the stove.

In a online ad for the stove it states that it is ‘whisper quiet’… maybe if you are hard of hearing. It is not obnoxiously loud, but you most certainly can hear it quite distinctly. We ordered the “Log Kit”; granted it looks better than just a empty stove, but it does not look much like logs. The kit is also made from a very light, brittle ceramic and at $125 is not something we would purchase again. One good thing about it though is that it helps keep the brick panels in place; without them there isn’t much else to hold them in place. Appearance wise they do not look much like logs to me, or Sue, who describes them as looking like petrified elephant turds. The stove also has a built in scrapper to clean the heat transfer tubes which I think is just about useless.

As I stated in the beginning of this piece we are happy with the stove. It is remarkable how well and comfortably it heats our home.  We have a gas fired forced hot air furnace in the house which is supposedly about 93 percent or so efficient. The pellet stove, hands down, does a much better job of heating the entire house. The second floor is very comfortable. Granted the stove faces the stairs and warm air is blowing up that way, but each bedroom has a vent from the furnace and they were still cool. The bathroom only has an electric heater which you had to wait to heat the small space, the bathroom now is nice and toasty.

Once the temperature starts dropping below 8o Sue starts getting cold. If it was not such a increase in the gas bill she would have that thing cranked up to 80 at all times. Instead though she had bulky sweaters she wasnt comfortable in and a blanket. Since we installed the stove it is totally different and she is much more comfortable.

When we were deciding what we were going to get to supplement heating the house this winter we had considered a fireplace or wood stove as well. Fireplaces are very nice looking, but they really do not heat a house very well. Wood stoves can do a great job heating a house but require much more work. For instance you have to keep feeding in the wood, they create a lot of ash that has to be cleaned up, the house often has a smokey smell and soot can build up around the house.

Another drawback to the wood stove is that when you throw the wood in a wood stove they get very hot and then peter out till you throw more wood in; they are not at all easy to regulate. The pellet stove has a High, Medium and Low setting with a Very High setting you can use to quickly take the chill out of the air; but it is suggested that you not use that for more than an hour.

During the day, if it is above 40 degrees, we can run the stove all day on the #2 setting and be quite comfortable. Below 40 we use setting #3 – For Sues’ benefit. At night when we are going to bed we drop it down to #1. The stove has a hopper which holds a full 40 pound bag of pellets; on #2 it easily will last the entire day, on #3 I’ll top it off at night. All during the day the stove automatically drops a small batch of pellets into the stove; there is nothing else to think about.

Unlike a wood stove, which is hazardous to touch when in use, the top and sides of the pellet stove get hot but you are not going to get a 3rd degree burn. In fact we have a jar with a candle in it sitting on top of the stove and it does not melt into a jar of liquid wax. The house is not heated by the heat radiated from the stove but by warm air coming from the heat exchange tubes by an internal blower. That blower by the way is one weak point of a pellet stove: if you lose power you lose the use of the stove. A second point the conventional wood stove has over a pellet stove is the availability of fuel. With a wood stove you can burn tree parts, pallets, pretty much scrap wood of any type, a pellet stove burns pellets and that’s it, Sure you can sometimes burn corn, but you are still dependent on finding a distributor for your fuel. This year, because of the skyrocketing oil prices early in the year, there was created a demand for the stoves and fuel manufacturers and distributors were not prepared for and there were shortages of pellets as well as long delays in deliveries of the stoves.

When we were first considering getting either a wood or pellet stove I still worked for the lumber company and the availability of plenty of free scrap wood was a strong point in favor of a wood stove. However after the company closed it was not as attractive an idea. Granted you can buy cord wood but pellet stoves actually burn more efficiently than wood stoves so the cost for heating is cheaper when buying pellets.

The initial costs involved can be steep. Excluding the pellets we paid about $3000 from purchase to installation. On top of that we bought three tons of pellets at $290 a ton. However we were able offset part of the cost using the tax rebate we got. If we can buy our pellets earlier in the year we should be able to get them a little cheaper as well next year.

Using today’s prices I figured out a cost comparison of heating the old apartment on fairview with oil and both floors of this house with the pellet stove.

At the cost of oil right now, based on at least one 275 gallon tank a month, we would have been spending roughly $21 dollars a day to heat the apartment – and that is on a programmable thermostat that dropped the heat down when we were not home.

There are 50 bags per ton of pellets, which comes out to about $6 a bag. we are using right now 1 – 1/12 a bags a day. $6-$9 dollars a day versus $21 is quite a difference.

Time will tell how well made and reliable the unit is but, so far, we are very pleased with this purchase; there is a bit of a learning curve: proper air to fuel mixture, trim control, storing the pellets and keeping the bags dry, etc. But it was a good purchase.

The Breckwell site is here


A Thought on Governor Sarah Palin RNC Speech


There is a scene in one of my favorite films, Chariots of fire, where Harold Abrahams, portrayed by Ben Cross, who is a runner and a bit of the arrogant type with a chip on his shoulder, watches as Eric Liddell, the Flying Scotsman, portrayed by Ian Charleson, in a race many believed he wasn’t prepared for, rounds turn 4 on the track, throws his head back and heads full speed past his opponents and to victory at the finish line. Fate kept the two from running against each other in a race, Liddell was a devout Christian and refused to run on Sunday, but, watching the Flying Scott, Harold knows that, if they had competed, this person would have blown him away. Harold, a man of privilege, in technically perfect form, may have done everything he could to finely hone his skills, but the humble missionary Liddell was a natural.

In my minds eye that is the image that I see when thinking of how Hillary Clinton must have felt when she watched Sarah Palin give her acceptance speech and again last night at the RNC.

Some reviews I read of the speech had people comparing her to Ronald Reagan. I can see why. Reagan reminded us that it was okay to be proud of being Americans. For years now, certainly the last eight, we have been blasted from all corners; scolded and condemned… but not last night. Gov Palin showed she was proud to be an American and I think that America wants to feel the same way too.


Home Depot Reconditioned Tool Review:

RIDGID TS3650 10 In. Cast-Iron Table Saw Review

September 4, 2008

The Worst “reconditioned” item I have ever purchased.

Anyone who has one will agree that the RIDGID TS3650 10 In. Cast-Iron Table Saw is a great saw. The following review is in the form of a letter I emailed to Home Depot, via their site, about the condition of the saw I received. It is over a week since I sent them the letter; since they have chosen not to respond I can only assume that they are really not that concerned.

I leave it to you to judge if it is worth your hard earned money to buy this saw.

Click on the photos for larger ones showing the issues I raise in the letter to Home Depot.


I recently purchased a Ridged table saw (order # MS50250, delivered 8-7-08).
Though I have purchased “re-furbished” items from other vendors in the past, this was the first from Home Depot. The previous purchases all went very well and, considering I have always been pleased with my dealings with Home Depot, I had no reservations from purchasing the saw.

The transaction went smoothly & the delivery was prompt. Knowing that the unit, when new, ships in two boxes I was a bit surprised when mine arrived in one.

From the outside the box had no serious signs of damage so I had no concerns accepting it. I was quite surprised to find however, when I opened it,  how poorly it was packed; everything was loose with only some bundled paper as cushioning;

Upon inspection I found that nearly every component had some abrasion or scuff mark from banging around, the miter gauge was all out of whack and the saw housing was bent:

In fact the motor and main fence rail looked like they had been attacked with a hammer:

With every other refurbished product I have purchased from other vendors it was hard to tell that the items had ever been in anyone else’s hands, they looked that good. Refurbished had always meant that everything was carefully inspected and sent out as though new. This however does not appear to be the case with Home Depot. Here it appears that HD received a unit as a returned item, shipped it off to whom ever, they in turn took it apart, threw it in a box, and shipped it off to another sucker with new fasteners, but without inspecting anything.

If they had they would have noticed little things like that 2 casters, for the Hercu-lift, had stripped threads which I had to run through a die and re-thread so that I could use them:

Having done a great deal of research on this saw before I purchased it I already knew some of the things I would have to do, like clean off the protective oil on the cast iron top before I used it. That was not something I had to do on mine though. The top had no oil and had very obviously been sanded, but that did not remove the rusty fingerprints all over it:

So now I found myself in a quandary: laid off for the first time in 21 years I was scrambling to find odd jobs to pay my bills – I needed this table saw; I did not have the money to spare to buy a new saw, return this one and wait for a refund.

When I received the email from HD advertising “refurbished” Ridgid tools that could be purchased online I called up and asked if the lifetime warranty carried over on those as well. I found that it did not, but they did come with a one year warranty. Considering my excellent experience with Ridgid tools (my 12″ sliding compound miter saw is one of my favorite tools) as well as having read great reviews about the quality of this saw I had no real concerns buying a “refurbished” Ridgid tool. The extra savings over buying new in the store was a blessing.

I see now though why HD wont offer the lifetime warranty on these tools, they must know what really gets sent out.

As I said, I needed this saw asap, so I put it together and had to make many adjustments to get it correct. It works, but it looks like a hammered piece of sh!t.

Who ever is in charge of HD’s refurbished tools department ought to be ashamed of themselves.


Maxent MX-42HPT51 HDTV Review

July 21, 2008

I really do not see a whole lot of reviews for this brand, some I see are negative, but I wanted to share our experience as well.

We purchased this TV at Costco for roughly $800 about one year ago. Our main reason for buying a flat panel TV was the limited space we had available in our new living room; we wanted something to hang on the wall. I am still not satisfied with the quality of LCD TV images (artifacts, blocking) so I wanted a plasma.

What really caught my eye with this set, aside from the price, was how nice the picture was. In stores like this TV’s are not expertly calibrated – what you see is basically what you get right out of the box. Without a doubt, some of the higher priced brands were breathtaking in their HD image, but this set was real real nice too, the colors were awesome.

Since we also knew right from the get go that we were not going to be using the set for HD viewing paying the extra money for the best HD set did not make sense.

Even with the non HiDef Direct TV signal this is a very nice set. There is, on some channels more than others, a very slight softness on faces and such, but only in that it is not getting a HiDef signal so it lacks the extreme clarity of a HD image, But the picture is much better than that which we had with our older 32″ Mitsubishi CRT TV.

Hooked up to our up-scaling DVD player and the image is awesome – still not HD, but pretty damn close. One note though: The quality of the DVD image can vary greatly depending on the quality of the movies transfer to DVD. I recently watched Jet Li in “Hero” and was appalled at the grainy image. However the clarity of the image on discs like “The Robertson’s”, “The Incredibles”, “Final Fantasy”, and a number of ‘live action’ features were breath taking.

There are two HDMI ports, more might be better, but it serves us well. Plus many different alternative connects. For instance, our DVD player uses a HDMI connection, but the Direct TV box uses the S-Video. There is a standard cable/sat TV connection, regular Red Whit Yellow RCA connections, as well as component video connections, and one for hooking it up to your computer as well.

If you like to tweak your picture and audio settings there things you can do there as well.

The only gripe I have about the set is something I discovered the first time I turned it on using the remote: sometimes it locks up the set. I have never had it happen using the button on the TV. It maybe that if the button is pushed twice real quickly it confuses the set.

To reset it, unplug the TV for a minute, then plug it back in; don’t worry all your settings should remain. You will hear the TV ‘click’ while you are doing this, that seems to be when it resets itself.

Other than that occasional quirk, I am very pleased with this set.

Maxent is offered by a company called RegentUSA, and aparently the set is manufactured my Sampo.

NOTE: If you do buy this, or any ‘no name’ brand, make sure you know that you have a decent return policy. A while back Costco had to change its return policy on electronics because people were returning them just to get the latest and greatest models. Those people are assholes and ruined a great no questions asked store policy.

However Costco does give you 90 days and, I believe, extends the manufactures warranty as well, so I was comfortable buying it there.

Cnet has a fair review here:


WEBER Q Grill Review

NOTE: What this is not.

This is not intended to claim that one type of grilling, gas, charcoal, wood, spontaneous combustion or whatever is better than any other. It is just my impressions of this particular model grill.

July 4, 2008

Man, I love this Grill.

When I bought mine, probably the first maybe the second year they were out, there was just one model, now, The original Q grill is called the Weber 200 Q Grill.

I paid just over $140 for it, which was a substantial amount for me to drop on a grill.

Before this I would buy those ‘disposable’ $20 grills that would last a season, maybe two, then either the burner or body of the grill would rust out and I would have to start all over again. I needed something that was going to last.

I looked around for awhile, and I really saw some impressive looking grills – and I saw many that were not as good as you would be led to believe. The big thing you are seeing these days are stainless steel grills. Heed my warning oh grill seeker: not all stainless steel grills are stainless steel where it counts!

I have seen many with bright and shiny, or brushed finish, stainless steel bodies but when you open them up it is the same old chrome stuff that only lasts a couple years. In which case you are left with a nice shinny hulk sitting on your tree belt because it costs as much for new innards as it did for the freaking grill in the first place.

The Q line has a stainless steel burner, aluminum body and cast iron grate. This baby is built to last.

Call me a chump, or a poor excuse for a male, if you must, but I do not see that the size of a mans grill is any reflection of his masculinity. I just wanted something large enough for me and the occasional little get together. A added benefit would be that it could use those little tanks you used with your torch and it was portable.

This grill covered all those bases – and some.

Assembly is a cinch, I think basically it consisted of dropping in the grill grate, maybe something else, but nothing to worry about. And, as you probably know, that grill grate is CAST IRON. In fact that thing alone probably weighs more than the rest of the entire grill. Despite that though it is still easy to lug around; with a handle on both sides if you are smaller in stature than you and a friend will have no poblem moving it around.

There are two little side tables, which honestly could be a bit more sturdy, but they do the job. They easily fold inside the grill when not in use. the small tank threads in easily on the right side near the flame control. Though I wanted a grill that would use these tanks I wanted to use the standard 20lb tanks as well. I bought a conversion kit from the hardware store, threaded it on and that was that. I have heard that some folks using the larger tanks are having a issue where the flame is not really strong and it takes forever to cook; from what I remember you can correct this by S L O W L Y opening the valve on the tank, wait a moment, then turn on the regulator to start the gill. Personally it has never been a issue for me.

When we go to the inlaws and plan on cooking some steaks, I grab a small tank, undo the 20lb one and drop the whole grill into the trunk.

The cooking area on the grill is sixteen by twenty-one inches; not huge, but easily handles a bunch of burgers and or dogs. And I have cooked 6 nice big Costco size rib eye steaks at once without any trouble at all.

On earlier small grills that I used I would frequently get flare ups’ where the flames come up and envelope the meats. Impressive as all hell, but, aside from being a bit hazardous, it left what I was cooking charred and crispy in ways I would rather have avoided. I have never had the issue on this grill, a little flame here or there, but nothing really. Perhaps because the grate is a bit further from the flame.

The burner is in a rectangular shaped circle, running the length and width of the grill. It is stainless steel and I still am using the original from when I purchased it in 2003 or so. occasionally one of the gas vents gets plugged; it cleans easy by poking a thin wire through the hole.

Lighting the Q is a breeze: push the red pizo button on the left handle and with just a couple clicks (depends how clean you keep it) and it lights right up.

There is a nice catch tray built into the unit that easily slides in and out to catch all the gooey oozy stuff that drips down which uses standard size aluminum try inserts when you need to replace them.

You can get a cart for this grill but I have not bothered to. I have a little table on our back porch. I did get the vinyl cover for it; it is very durable, fits like a glove and keeps all the water out in bad weather.

When closed the sides of the lid are open, vents if you will, which works nice when I uses my wireles temperature probe to keep a eye on the cooking of the meats.

I bought the griddle plate, also cast iron, which fits on top of the grate in the back half of the grill, so you can cook pancakes and eggs on your grill as well! There is also a set of utensils you can get from weber that nicely tucks into areas on the tables so you always have them with you.

The grill snobs might scoff at my Q grill, but it has worked fabulously for me. I was not earning a lot of back when I bought it and had to think long and hard before I committed the money, but, knowing what I do now, would not hesitate to do so again.

If you live in a area where you really do not have a yard, just a porch, or you want something you can use at home and away, then by all means get one of the Q line of grills. There are a number of different sizes now, one certainly is going to fit your needs and you will not regret it.


SKIL #2410-01 10.8v Lithium Ion Screwdriver Review

June 25, 2008

I have not found many reviews on this drill/driver, so I thought that I would throw my 2 cents in.

The first question you should ask yourself is: “What do I need this for?”

If you are the contractor type looking to build a deck & hang a house of sheet rock over the weekend and then use it as your main gun on the job……Move along, nothing to see here.

If you are Harry the home project guy, or his friend Mary, this may be just the tool for you. If you are a experienced woodworker type, like me, with a home shop and just want a second cordless it may be for you as well.

I have been a woodworker for over 20 years. Whenever I was building something big, like my yoga benches or a shelving unit for the house, I would either build it at the shop, where I had numerous air tools at my disposal or, if I built them at home, where I also had plenty of air tools, but hated having to listen to the compressor kick on whenever I was using them in my small shop, would rely on my 18v cordless drill/driver. In which case I had to keep switching bits back and forth when I was drilling pilot holes and then putting in a screw after each one.

I knew that I need a second one, I just kept putting it off. A little while back I saw that COSTCO had this SKIL available for $40, but then they also had a $10 instant rebate…..$3o was the magic number for me. Besides, this was Costco, they have a great return policy for dissatisfied customers.

The big selling point these days for cordless tools is the Lithium Ion battery. Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) worked, but had the terrible ‘memory’ problem. Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) though certainly better has its issues, but Lithium-ion (Li-ion) is much better – given the choice, take the Lithium-ion tool. In my personal experience, the tool is often a bit lighter in weight (every little bit helps when you are working over your head or have a ton of screws to drive) has more power for its size, the batteries do not seem to drain as quickly, and they hold their charge while just sitting a whole lot longer.

The tool has a surprising amount of torque, the other day I was taking apart a project from years back that was held together with 3 inch screws. A lesser tool would have bogged down but this thing went through them without a issue. Driving long screws gave similar results.

One thing to note. This is not a speedy drill/driver. Air tools, higher power cordless drivers spin a whole lot faster, but it gets the job done.

But wait, there’s more: it not only is a screwdriver that comes with an assortment of driver bits, but it comes with a small assortment of drill bits as well! Sure the assortment is small, like, four. but they are good common sizes for harry the hobbyist to pre-drill pilot holes when hanging that picture of his favorite mother-in-Law (read it again, it says drill the hole, not the mother-in-law). An accomplished wood worker knows where to get more drill. One review I did find for this tool made an issue of the limited bits, for the price you are paying I would not expect more.

Another gripe I saw was about the chuck. This tool has a very simple key less chuck which, because of its design will not allow you to use standard round drill bits. To use the chuck you simply slide the collar to remove or add the bit, then slide it back. They did not like the hex type of ends needed for the tool either, but they are becoming so common now you should have no problem finding a replacement if you break one.

The tool has a comfortable feel to it, the handle is not so bulky to be too big for smaller hands, it is not too top heavy and it rests nicely on its built in base when you put it down.

It has variable speeds – the more you pull the trigger the faster it goes, plus it has a clutch adjustment to stop the driver at different torques, the highest setting, for the drill, disables the clutch so the drill keeps spinning. There does seem to be a slight hesitation from the time you press the trigger till it starts, and it does not have a brake in it to stop the bit right away when you let go. I ever so minor inconvenience; for one thing it does not spin super fast so it is not like you have to wait minutes between driving screws, so don’t even give it a thought. And an good woodworker will get the screw on the tip as it is slowing down without even thinking about it<g>.

There is a small but bright LED light built in the base as well. No, it aint a flood light to illuminate your entire work area, and maybe putting it more towards the business end of the driver would have been better, but it does work. I was using the tool the other night outside in semi darkness and by just slightly applying pressure to the trigger it lit up the areas I wanted to put a screw so that I could place them right where I intended. I used at well for hanging up some boxes I made for our kitchen cabinets, the overhead light in the kitchen really did not help much, but the little LED did a decent job illuminating where I was working.

No, it is not an industrial grade tool, but it is not intended as such. If I had to have something different about it, I would prefer a removable battery. The device charges by placing it on a dock/base (which also subs as a bit holder) so you have to wait for it to finish, basically, till you can use it again But most home owners who will use this tool do not have separate charging stations for their cordless tool batteries, or have a need for one; the charge should be enough for them to finish their task and hang it up till the next time.

For what it is and what I use it for, I am happy with it.

So there.


2008 Dodge Grand Caravan Review

June 25, 2008

This weekend past we took a trip to Rhode Island.

Needing a larger vehicle we rented a mini van. I was not aware of it at the time my wife made the reservations what make or model it would be, but I was happy to see it was the Grand Caravan.

I have become quite a fan of these mini van things. We have rented them a few other times on extended vacations, interestingly they all happen to be the same model as this one, and I was happy with them each time.

Not owning one of these vehicles I can not speak for their reliability and such; I can only give you my impression after having used them, in this case for one day.

This particular vehicle, with the exception of having the extra stow-n-go storage, was light on options. I was in fact surprised to see that the CD/Radio was apparently not set up for satellite radio, which I am a big fan of and thought was being put in pretty much everything these days. It was not a issue though for this day trip.

We picked up the van at the AVIS lot in West Springfield The gentleman there who assisted us, Matt Rettura, listed as the agency operator of M R Auto Rentals, was very pleasant and helpful. This was our second time using this location, and that he helped us, and I have no concerns about doing so again in the future.

This particular model was white with a two tone gray interior and cloth seats – which I actually prefer over leather. Aesthetically I like white cars, although, in very sunny places, if they have a long hood, can be a real PIA to drive when the sun reflects off the hood into your eyes. And you should always avoid white in places like Florida during Love Bug season, around May and October – those critters seem to love white and will be mashed all over your windshield.

It seems to me that they have changed the shape a bit from earlier models I have rented, it seemed more boxy than pointy, perhaps a bit more aggressive looking like some of the other Chrysler/Dodge cars. One wonders if the squarish nose affects fuel economy, a bigger concern now than ever.

Climbing in and out was easy and for my height it was not too much of a reach once seated to close the door. This has not always been the case for me in Doge vehicles, a car we rented some years back had me sitting so awkwardly that I had to really reach to get the door closed.

The attendant at Avis pointed out something I had not seen before and really liked – the side windows in the sliding doors opened! This is great for all the fresh air freaks (as my dear departed dad called them) out there like my wife. One more note on the sliding doors: though they were absent on this one, other GC vans I rented had the control for opening and closing the doors on the key fob and it was really a great option on the trips my elderly aunt was with us.

Which reminds me, what kinda fahcockta keys are they giving us now?? Gone are the metal toothed bars, this thing looks like a elongated key fob.

One end has a red squared ‘Panic’ button on it, that end mates with a square receptacle on the ignition switch.

I am guessing that it uses some RFID system to let the car know that it is the right key. It is marketed as a anti theft device, but if my guess is correct, it already has its issues; I read a couple years back, in a article about the proposal to use the technology on National ID cards, that RFID tags can be hacked and forged. This may slow down your impulse driven thief, but, kids and technology as they are, we are fast approaching the a day and age when your 5 year old will be downloading hacks to program your toaster to get the Nickelodeons satellite feed. They wont have much trouble with these setups a few years after that.

I first saw this type of key on a Segway I rode at Disney World, it was kinda cool. But, if you loose your keys, I would not be surprised if you have to take out a second mortgage to buy a new set. I don’t know, just my guess. You definitely will not be able to go to the local hardware store anytime soon to make a extra emergency set. I used to carry a spare door key in my wallet, in case the keys accidentally were locked in the car, that aint gonna be possible here: the key/fob is the door key. For our trip I kept the keys in my fanny pack, if I had to stuff these big things in my pocket I would not have been pleased.

A nice feature was the built in child restraints, which I would not even have known was there if it had not been for the previous occupants of the van leaving one open. Our boys are in their 20’s and a little past, physically at least<g>, my having to keep up on child type things like this. The middle bench seat had the seat on the passenger side open with the restraints, but the drivers side opened up as well. I do not know if the back bench seat was set up in a similar fashion. Seeing that we did have a small child with us this trip it was certainly handy to have.

The interior was roomy, perhaps it would be a bit tight for folks like myself with long legs in the back row, but our friends who were with us did not seem to have too much of a issue with it.

The attendant claimed that others had commented that head room seemed to have diminished over earlier models; seated, my 6 foot frame found no problem with it at all.

I liked how the dash was not entirely sloped downwards towards you like so many other vehicles I have seen. When we travel we use a GPS with a dash mount instead of the suction cup type you stick on the windshield. The center area of the dash was actually stepped up a bit and made a perfect platform for the beanbag mount to rest on.

I do not know what the issue is with these inky-dinky little interior mounted rear view mirrors, I find them entirely inadequate in any vehicle I drive these days. This one was no worse than most, but considering the length of the van, I like to rely on more than just the side view mirrors – which worked well in this vehicle. Personally I have one of those you clip on over the existing windshield mounted mirror and it gives you a wider view. They take a little getting used to (everything seems further back) but they can really help when you are driving something with crummy side view mirrors to see those idiots lurking in your blind spots. The one we use in all our cars is similar to this one. I always take it with me when we rent a car. They make the side windows part of the drivers field of vision, not just the passengers.

The ride of the van was nice, it was quiet and comfortable. Of course I wasn’t trying to test its limits, but I had no issues. The brakes were really good.

The center console was spacious; kind of a tub with snap in compartments for the cup holders and such that you could place wherever you like. Nothing fancy but it served its purpose.

One thing I have raved about to friends about the Grand Voyager vans I have rented is the comfort of the front seats and these were just as good. I have a curved spine which makes good support in the lumbar region a big issue. In all three vehicles I have I need to put a pillow at the base of my back when we go for a drive. Of course one of my cars is a 1968 when lumbar support was not considered a issue. But, other than a 1989 Ford Taurus I had years back, car seats are a real killer for me.

In the past few years we have flown down a couple of times to Arizona to visit my aunt and take her with us on our vacations to California (Disney Land) and Las Vegas. Each time we rented a GV van and, despite the very very long ride, my back was the most comfortable it has ever been while driving.

The seats in this van were superb for me and my wife, who has no back issues, agrees. The only time I found myself shifting in the seat was when I was slouching and just wanted to sit up more straight. Back discomfort was zilch. I do not know about the long term reliability of these vans, but if I do decide to buy a mini van, the GV will get serious consideration for the seats alone.

Although, if I had to nit-pick, I would ask to have the option to adjust the height of the captains chairs center arm rest. For my height I found it a little too high, I can only imagine what shorter drives would experience. If it was adjustable, I did not see the mechanism for it looking at my wifes seat while driving.

Cruise control is a nice feature for long rides. I first thought that this van did not have it because I did not see any buttons for it on the steering wheel as is most common, or on a lever near or on the turn signals. Instead it was activated by a little flipper/lever tucked in the lower right of the wheel. It seemed odd to me at first but I grew to really like it there. Its position came in real handy when I would need to resume the CC feature. Instead of having to take my eyes off the road to fish and fumble for a button, I just lifted my right hand from where it was resting and pushed the lever up. Very handy.

The location of the shift lever took a little getting used to, but it was not any serious issue. Instead of having a wheel column mounted stick they have it now up on the dash like a console mounted shifter. Odd, but not a concern on a vehicle with a automatic transmission.

Another gripe I have would be with the climate control. It worked well and it was not too loud. But, and maybe because this van was not packed with all the fancy options, I did not like that, although each person in the front could independently adjust their temperature preferences, and the middle seat occupant could do the same, where the air came out for the front seat had only one control.

My wife likes to have the air blowing below, keeping her feet warm. I am always warm as it is so I like to have cool air blowing on me – but I hate it blowing on my feet when I drive. We had to choose one or the other; a separate control here would have been very helpful.

When I picked up the van it showed 3485 miles on the odometer and a full tank of gas – how full I do not know. One thing I noted was during the drive to Rhode Island the gauge said we used a quarter tank of gas. Driving back, without adding gas so the gauge said we still had 3/4 of a tank of gas, it used two quarters, or half a tank more. So the gauge is not the most accurate.

A little math… the odometer said 3,485 miles to start, and read 3,744 miles when I filled it back up. That is 259 miles. Divided it by the 13.5 gallons of gas I added and we got a little over 19 miles to the gallon. Perhaps it could have been better, but there were six people in the thing – five and a half if you consider one was only 4 years old.

Over all, myvu of the 2008 Grand Caravan is positive.


Wow factor aside, I do not care for the new door/ignition key system. I love all the latest and greatest technology out there, but it is really too cumbersome (hey big boy, is that a key fob in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?) and, my guess, the added cost of replacing them is probably a sin.

The climate control, though it worked well, could have been better if the front passengers had more independent control.


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