Dan's Recommendations

So, here we are again, with even more of Dan's Recommendations! (Just like on our Links page, the new entries will be on the top, and the previous ones (all checked and still valid!) will be below.)

Always random, and always true! (Hey, would I steer you wrong?)

For Christmas 2018

Let's see what we have this time...

The Best Coffee

This is a new recommendation, because the previously recommended brand (Millstone) doesn't seem to be available any more... It's Trader Joe's Medium Roast Ground Coffee. It's Dan's new favorite, discovered on a whim while in a Trader Joe's store...and it turns out to be really good...and affordable! (Don't buy it from the link if you can help it...it should be much cheaper in the store...)

We will often make it in our coffee maker to drink first thing in the morning.

The Best Airline (sometimes, under special conditions)

is Contour Airlines! Yes, I know you've never heard of them...that's because they're only a couple of years old, and they only fly a few routes. HOWEVER, if you need to go from Macon to BWI airport (near Washington, DC) (or vice versa) they're not only the only game in town, they can be surprisingly affordable! We wait until less than a week before our trips, and we've consistently gotten tickets for $39.00 each way!

Previous Entries:

Click here to go directly to previous
entries in the "Arcane" category!

The Best A Cappella Singing Group

Well, at least who WE enjoy the best is Pentatonix! They are a pure a cappella group who sound terrific, and if you heard about their loss of their original bass singer, Avi...well, they have a new one, named Matt – and he's GOOD! (We have 2 of their Christmas CDs, and we love 'em.) Check out their music here, on their Youtube channel!

The Best Value in SD Data Cards

Just for reliability's sake, I have always used only name-brand SD cards in all my cameras – SanDisk, Kingston, and Lexar – and they've worked just fine – I recommend them all equally. However, the award for the best VALUE (at least as I write this) goes to the SanDisk 16GB SDHC Flash Memory Card ($6.95 at Amazon), and the SanDisk 32GB Ultra SDHC Flash Memory Card ($12.99 at Amazon).

Actually, SanDisk seems to have the low end of the price range pretty well locked down, across the board, but these two sizes seem to occupy the current sweet spot – at about $0.43 per gigabyte, it's astonishing value! (Caveat: IF you need a card this big...I can barely make use of my latest 16GB card – in my big camera, it gives me about 1,700 exposures!!)

The Best Small Flashlight

A small, inexpensive, VERY VERY bright LED flashlight!

Here's my recommended flashlight! It's the UltraFire E17 Flashlight...it claims to be 1000 lumens (which is a LOT of light)...it may not be exactly 1000 lumens, but in any respect, it IS very VERY bright! In fact, I can't use it to find my way to the bathroom in the night (you know, to avoid stepping on cat toys) because it's TOO BRIGHT -- it lights up the whole room!

However, it's perfect for its intended purpose: to see my way walking through dark places when all the lights are turned off. It has a zoomable head, it's fairly small (5 1/2 inches long), though somewhat heavy, and is available on Amazon (just the flashlight, no batteries) as of this writing for about $10.00!

In this photo, I try to show the relative brightness of three of my flashlights:

  • On the far right is a small multi-LED light,, with brightness typical of many of my LED flashlights
  • In the middle is an incandescent Mini-Maglite
  • And, at left, my new UltraFire E17. Yes, it's REALLY bright!

The Best Potato Chips

Dorothy Lane Market -- For many years, Gaye (a native of Dayton, Ohio) considered the Mikesell's brand (from Ohio) the absolute best potato chips – in part because they were always made with peanut oil – until recently! Now, Mikesell's are made with a variety of oils...BUT there's hope! Dorothy Lane Market (in Dayton) now offers their own "DLM Kettle Cooked Potato Chips," which ARE made with pure peanut oil! Yummy!

ANOTHER durable, small, high-precision scale

This is just amazing...you can read my entry below from a few months back about how much I like my American Weigh AC-100 Scale. Well, now I have another one, the American Weigh AWS-100 100g x 0.01g Digital Scale.

The AWS- model has the same specs as the AC- model...it also weighs things up to 100 grams, Accuracy is to 0.01 gram, or 0.1 grain. It works exactly the same way (probably has the same electronics inside). It just looks a little different (it has a built-in folding cover). The only reason I bought it was for redundancy – used daily for medicine measuring, I didn't want my only one to break and leave me in the lurch.

So here's the amazing part – right now, the AWS-100 is selling on Amazon for UNDER TEN DOLLARS! To me, that's astonishing for the performance you get!

The Electric Bass Strings I Use

are GHS Bass Boomers. They're round-wound nickel-plated steel, and I've used them for years and years on my four string...and as soon as I bought my new 5-string bass, I put a set on it, too!

When I first bought my Peavey Foundation (about 30 years ago!), I used flat-wound strings...but over time I found that I preferred the sound of the round-wounds. These GHS Bass Boomers may not be the very best bass strings...but they're readily available, quite affordable, and have always played well and sounded good to me.

(I like the Medium gauge, which is 0.045", 0.065" 0.085", and 0.105" for four-string; for five-string, they add the low B string at 0.130")

The Acoustic Guitar Strings Gaye Uses

Gaye has found that, on the rare occasions that she actually DOES change guitar strings (because, in her words, she goes through an identity crisis every time she changes strings), she likes to use D'Addario EXP Medium gauge strings on her acoustic guitars. Recently, in the process of getting work done on one of our acoustic-electric Ovations at Guitar Center in Atlanta, she found out that these are the very strings the technician recommends!

A durable, small, high-precision scale

is the American Weigh AC-100 Digital Pocket Gram Scale. It's a little thing (roughly the size of an iPhone), and it weighs things up to 100 grams. Accuracy is to 0.01 gram, or 0.1 grain. It will let you set different units: I use grains for weighing gunpowder for reloading cartridges, and I use grams for my Parkinson's supplements.

I've had it for about 4 years, and it has gotten beat up as I carry it back and forth to work each day (to weigh doses), and it just keeps on working! Under $12 at Amazon. One caveat -- it needs a separate 100-gram calibration weight, for $3-4.

(Be careful if you're tempted to buy one that's even cheaper...MOST only have 0.1 gram precision, instead of 0.01...to do reloading, you really need 0.01 gram (0.1 grain) precision!)

The Best Chocolate

is by far anything from Esther Price Chocolates. The catch here is that it's only made and available in Dayton, Ohio. HOWEVER...they will ship chocolates ordered over the Internet, so, at least in cold weather, the chocoholics among our readership have no excuse! (Dan's very favorite product? The dark chocolate coated potato chips. Yum!)

Lacking that, if I had to choose a widely available dark chocolate, it would have to be Lindt's Lindor Truffles.

Previous entries in... the "Arcane" category!
(meaning limited in appeal to only a portion of our audience –
but hopefully, at least mildly interesting for everyone!)

A Superb, Small, Bass Guitar Amplification Rig

It's an exceedingly small, lightweight, and powerful electric bass guitar amplifier (the "head"), with a correspondingly small and lightweight speaker enclosure (the "cabinet")

(First, a little background: I've been playing the electric bass guitar for about 39 years now (!) (as of Christmas 2018). My first amp was the famous Peavey TNT-100 – a fairly big box, with a 15-inch diameter speaker cone, and a built-in amplifier putting out 45 watts. It was adequate for a first amp...but after it started to die, I got a Peavey Centurion head that produced 130 watts, and a matching cabinet, again with a single 15-inch speaker in it. I had found that I really liked the sound, the tone, of a 15-inch speaker. This system was at least moderately portable – the amp head weighed 35 pounds, and the cabinet was 67 pounds (it has big side handles). It served me well through a part-time professional musician phase in my life.

Recently, though, the Centurion head finally died, and I needed a new amp head. (I was jamming weekly at the local Moose Club with a bunch of guys. (Gaye plays with us, too!)) So I started shopping, but realizing that I was 55 years old at the time, I wanted something lighter weight than what I had before. Well, I was amazed at how far instrument amplification technology has progressed over these 30-some years!

I found the Gallien-Krueger MB-200 amplifier, and this little box is amazing! Not only is it more powerful than my last amp – 200 watts into 4 ohms – but it only weighs 2 pounds! (Not a typo – TWO POUNDS!) It's the little silver thing on top of the black thing in this photo:

And then the black thing...I still have my Peavey 67-pound 15-inch speaker cabinet, but it's just too much to carry to and from the Moose Lodge every week. Even a 35-pound Barcus-Berry 12-inch stage monitor I used for a while was just too awkward to carry every week. So, I found this: the Eden EX-110. Eden only builds amplification products for electric bass players, and they get good reviews, so I took a chance and bought this little cabinet.

It has a single 10-inch speaker, is only 12.5 inches wide by 14.25 inches high...and it only weighs 25 pounds! It may not sound like a huge difference, but I find it much easier to maneuver a 25-lb speaker than a 35-lb one. Bought for just over $200, it's a terrific deal, and it sounds great, too. It'll never match my 15-inch speaker's low notes, but it comes close enough.

Size comparison between the old Peavey and the new Eden in this photo (along with my trusty Peavey Foundation 4-string bass):

The Best Web Site for Buying Old Guns

is Classic Firearms -- a site that sells various old, surplus, "classic" firearms...with a fun-to-read, down-to-earth writing style. They are Christians, and care greatly about customer satisfaction. I bought my new (old) Beretta handgun from them, and they definitely treated me right!

The Best Web Site for On-Line Gun Reviews

is Gunblast.com. It's full of actual hands-on experience with nearly all the guns currently available. If you're shopping for a gun, it's well worth a few clicks to look in their Archives to see what Jeff Quinn has to say about it. He's complete, thorough, and unbiased, and it's great fun to listen to him in the video segments (he's a bearded good-ol-boy!).

That's all for now -- thanks!