Canidae: The Best Dog Food our Dogs Have Ever Had!

Posted on November 5th, 2005 in Product Reviews by mynagirl

Well, it all started with that Anna Nicole Smith ad. Once the media flap started, I had to hear what the big shakeup was about the food we feed our cats and dogs. If you’re interested, here’s the big site dedicated to educating you about all the alleged abuses by Iams: http://www.iamscruelty.com/. Iam’s counterpoint site with video’s of “inside the pet facility” is here: http://www.iamstruth.com. The videos are very heartwarming and well, from my perspective, a bit hard to believe. PETA is a histrionic organization to be sure, but I’m more likely to believe what they say they found — or at the least the general tone of it — than a “damage control” belly-scratching video that Iams put out after the fact.

But regardless, that whole dust-up gave us a reason to search out a new pet food. The dogs hated Iams, but I wanted to feed them something “healthy” so that’s all we gave them — I figured Iams must be healthy since it was the most expensive stuff you could buy at the grocery store. I meant, the dogs would snarf up cheap stuff from the store but that’s hardly the best stuff for them, right? So, once Iams was out of the picture we started on a quest for a healthy food that they’d really like. Engineerboy came across the following link that rated pet foods by their ingredients:

http://animalark.eapps.com/animal/PetFoods.nsf/$$PetFoodsByRating?OpenForm

There were several dog foods in the four-star range that we thought we might try and find, with a couple local retailers listed. We ended up settling on Canidae, which we can buy locally at the yup-scale “hardware store” Bering’s (really a fancy gifts / chocolate / gewgaw store, but it does have feed store – type stuff there). Canidae sure sounded good — the first five ingredients listed were Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Brown Rice, White Rice, and Lamb Meal. I mean, I’m a vegetarian, but I know that dogs evolved as carnivores and believe they should be fed meat. Those ingredients sure seemed pretty healthy for the hounds.

As a bonus, the dogs loved it as much (if not more) than any junk food cheap-o stuff from the grocery store, easily making its $45 price tag for a 40 lb bag worth it. Their coats look wonderful and shiny, and I think Biscuit the super-shedder might even be shedding a little less. One can hope. We also found Blue Buffalo cat food reviews and got Felidae so the cats seem to be snarfing that right up. Even our picky “can I please have wet food” tabby has calmed down a little and begged a bit less for the canned stuff, so that’s a miracle as far as I’m concerned.

As a side note, the PETA Iamscruelty.com site does not list Candidae Corporation responding to a survey saying that their organization doesn’t do animal testing, so I may give another of the four-star foods a try, since there is one listed (Azmira) that’s

Bruised Apple: The iPod on Windows Experience

Posted on February 1st, 2005 in Music,Product Reviews,Technology by mynagirl

Don’t Stop the Music

I am a listen-to-music-at-work kinda person. Ever since I’ve had a job with enough autonomy and desktime to allow it, I listen to music via headphones while I work. And since I don’t like to have any extraneous apps running on my workstation (much less keep music on a corporate machine), I like to have my music on a device that is disconnected from my actual PC, so I always have something to play my music with. Also, as a former runner, I used to take stuff with me on the hoof. So, I’ve had a few MP3-playing devices in my day.

My most recent device was an iRiver — most specifically, an iRiver 400-series CD player that will play MP3s burned onto CD. (I also have some familiarity with the iRiver solid state MP3 players, having bought the G-I-R-L one for running). The iRiver has a somewhat daunting and extremely tiny interface, but it’s highly customizable once you figure it out. The CD player has limitations, though — a CD can only fit about 200 or so MP3s on it, and after having that same CD at work for a few weeks you get pretty tired of that same mix. Plus, if you buy a new CD and rip those songs into MP3s, you have to re-burn a new MP3 mix CD just to add the 1 or 2 new songs you want to add into the mix. It can be a drag.

Before that I had (and actually, prior to the iPod, still used for exercising) an ancient RCA Lyra device and it’s really unusable — MP3s have to be custom-encoded with specific software in order to get transferred onto the Flash memory through a parallel-port flash reader that’s REALLY SLOW. It’s literally a 30-minute process. You can imagine how often the songs get changed on THAT device… not much incentive to do a 30 minute session on the elliptical when you’ve got the same 15 songs you had 6 months ago waiting for you and your workout.

Under My Thumb

At Christmas, the G-I-R-L (whose Indiana parents use a Mac) came down to visit with an Apple iPod in tow. Although we often had to pry the earbuds out of her ears to get her to actually join family events, I eventually asked her for some details on the little machine and (despite myself) got intrigued. I mean… 20 GB of music right there in such a tiny package is pretty enticing. Plus, we have an auxiliary jack in our Honda Element and the iPod hooks right up to it to put tunes into the car. (The iRiver CD player can do the same thing but it’s much more cumbersome to try and stuff the CD player into the glove box and hook up a power cord, etc).

And I gotta give it to Apple, the clickwheel is a really innovative interface. It feels a bit like an Etch-a-Sketch at first, but it’s a GREAT way to turn the

Review of the NordicTrack CX 995 Elliptical

Posted on August 2nd, 2003 in Product Reviews,Technology by EngineerBoy

We purchased the NordicTrack CX 995 Elliptical Trainer (aka CX995 or NTE1392) recently, directly from the NordicTrack website. The online experience was smooth, and the product was delivered within the promised time frame. Here are our impressions of the unit, so far:

If I Were Already Hercules, I Wouldn’t Need This Thing!

Please note that their delivery company only delivers curb-side, and will not bring the unit inside. They clearly state this in the shipping section, but the full impact does not hit home until the delivery guy leaves you with a 260 lb. cardboard box, secured with straps, sitting on a wooden pallet in your garage. You can take about ¼ of the weight out of the box by schlepping in the smaller bits and pieces, but the main unit, with the attached elliptical ramps, is all in one piece. In our case we were installing the unit in our upstairs bedroom, and getting it upstairs was quite a challenging chore. Be sure you have two strong, competent, affable people to wrangle the thing, because it’s pretty frustrating.

Some Assembly Required, Some More Assembly Required, More and More Assembly Required…!

Assembly is also a bit of a chore, but if you’ve ever bought a complicated piece of furniture from IKEA or some other put-it-together-yourself place, you can probably handle it. Keep in mind that assembly is definitely a two-person activity, as there are several cases where things have to be held in place and aligned, while other things are assembled/inserted/etc. Again, the directions clearly state that two people are needed, so believe it. It took us about 90 minutes to get the thing together.

Oh Baby, That’s Smooth

Once assembled, the first ride was very positive. The machine is extremely solidly built, and the movements are quiet and sure as you ellipse. The machine also comes with a wireless chest pulse sensor, that you wear around your torso, and you can track your heart rate on the console as you work out. There are also heart-rate monitors built into the handgrips if you don’t want to use the wireless one. The handgrip sensors will also measure your body fat percentage (damn them).

The footpads on this model are spaced apart such that the movement feels very natural. We had tried some of the other NordicTrack ellipticals in various sporting goods stores, and the foot pedals were widely spaced, meaning that you were doing a weird sort of bowlegged shuffle instead of a normal-feeling running motion.

The incline of the ramp adjusts electronically, so as you go through your exercise program the unit will hum and you will suddenly be “running” uphill. The motion on this unit is very smooth, and it feels very natural, like running but without the pounding.

This Unit Are Smart

The console provides around 20 different workout programs. They offer such things as hilly terrain, where the slope changes as you run, fat burning, strength training, etc. My favorites are the ones that let you target your heart rate and then the unit automatically varies

An Open Letter to Palm, Inc.

Posted on June 1st, 2003 in Product Reviews,Technology by EngineerBoy

Way back in the dark ages, I bought my first Palm device – the PalmPilot Pro. It immediately became as indispensable to me as my cell phone, as it enabled me to view, edit, change, and delete calendar appointments, contacts, and tasks while I was out and about, and then synchronize them when I got back to my computer. I used the heck out of it until I lost it, and immediately bought a replacement (used, same make/model) for about 25% of what I originally paid. I used the replacement for several years, then lost it, too. Palm had just announced the forthcoming Palm V, so I waited a couple of months for it to be released before purchasing it.

The Palm V was sleek and small, with a stylish metallic case, sharper graphics, and more memory. I once again used the heck out of it for a couple of years, and then (as you may have guessed, given the pattern so far) eventually lost it. I very badly wanted to replace it immediately, but rumors had begun circulating about a new wireless Palm (the i705, not the Sputnik-sized Palm VII), so I vowed to wait until the release of the new model before making my purchasing decision.

So I waited. And waited. And waited. For almost a year. Palm-less, writing things on sticky-notes, having to *remember* commitments and tasks. It was not fun. Finally Palm announced the upcoming i705. It looked pretty good, bigger than the Palm V, but smaller than the Palm VII, which seemed about right. Integrated, internal antennae, as opposed to the Palm VII’s flip-out, plastic, auto-breaking one. So I weighed my options, between the new color Palms and the wireless, non-color i705, and finally decided that the convenience of wireless won out. I placed my advance order and got my i705 the day after it was released.

It was love at first sight, let me tell you. I activated the wireless service, synched up my information, took it out for a test spin, got my first pro-active, wireless email notification and knew I could never go back to non-wireless. *This* is what a PDA was supposed to do. And I used the heck out of it. *And* we got one for my wife.

And then I began to notice some little, nagging problems. I had to recalibrate my screen every couple of days, because the place I would touch on the screen would be translated by the device to a place near where I touched, but not exactly. And over time it would drift further askew, until it was impossible to do anything. But, recalibration was a 30 second chore, so I figured I could live with it. Also, the gray case was just painted plastic, not metal, and the paint started to flake off almost immediately. This made the device look old and cheap. Eventually the case cracked, right along the edge of the media card slot, which Palm had illogically place directly behind the power button, so

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