Best Pencil Sharpener

Best Pencil Sharpener

  • A Review on the Best Pencil Sharpener

Update: April 2017:

Best Pencil Sharpener – A Clear Winner

The X-ACTO Pro X Beats them all hands-down

Best Pencil Sharpener
Best Electric Pencil Sharpener

Since writing this review, I have become a classroom teacher and have witnessed and/or peformed the sharpening of thousands of different pencils. When I did this review on best pencil sharpener I researched the numerous Amazon reviews and came to the conclusion that is the one pencil sharpener that consistently receives the highest rating. Now, I can affirm that the contest isn’t even close. The X-ACTO PROX is hands-down better than any other pencil sharpener I’ve ever tried. You can sharpen a brand new, completely unsharpened pencil (depending on brand), in around 5-6 seconds. The X-ACTO ProX is less than half the price as the Panasonic KP150BK. Like the KP150BK, the X-ACTO has a steel cutting wheel and an auto-shut-off feature to prevent over sharpening of your pencils. Another great feature is LED illumination which indicates when sharpening is complete. The X-ACTO has a larger receptacle for pencil shaving and a multi-wheel dial for selecting different sizes of pencils. These are features the KP150BK doesn’t. The best part is the $59.00 price tag. But wait, it gets even better than that. You can get them the XACTO PROX for around $58.00 on Amazon.

 

I bought this pencil sharpener about 18 months ago and dozens of students have used it. We go through a lot of pencils. I estimate that we’ve sharpened well 2,000 pencils with this unit. So far, it hasn’t failed. Prior to this I tried a couple of other electric pencil sharpeners such as the Wescott Evolution iPoint sold at Costco for around $15.00. I went through two of these. They are cheap, but they are noisy and they break. Other teachers have used these as well and have complained about how many times they have failed. At the failure rate of other cheap, electric pencil sharpeners, I would say that the $58.00 XACTO will actually save you some money in the long-run. But, most importantly, getting the right pencil sharpener will save you a lot of grief and headaches from the noise.

Please give me your own rating on the X-ACTO ProX Pencil Sharpener

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– back in the day when I thought pencil sharpeners were for Crossword Puzzles.

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Where to Buy HDMI Cables

Where to Buy HDMI Cables
Cheap HDMI Cable

My motto regarding HDMI Cables:
Just say, no to expensive home theater and audio/video cables. I’ll confess that I enjoy shopping at Best Buy and Walmart for technology gadgets. Generally, they have terrific pricing and selection. When it comes to cables, though – that is where I will politely tell them no every time. Sure, you got a great price on that new HP Photo Smart Printer, but then the Best Buy rep asks if you need a USB Printer cable. Your face takes on a confused expression of guilt and shame as you realize you cannot remember if you have a USB Printer cable at home or not. That Photosmart Printer just went up in price from $99.00 to $124.00 when the Best Buy sales rep informs you a 6′ cable is $25.00. Then, you wonder if it’s even long enough. The 10′ Cable is $30.00. Don’t worry if you’ve found yourself in this situation before. It’s happened to all of us at one time or another, and now I’ll let you in on a couple of dirty little secrets:

Buying HDMI Cables Offline

Walmart, Best Buy, etc., make up for their skinny profit margins on big-ticket items by selling the accessories like cables, ink and media for a massive profit.
You might wonder how stores like Best Buy can make money selling Desktop computers, Laptops, TVs, Printers and audio/video equipment for so cheap, and for good reason. The truth of the matter is that these stores don’t make a great deal of money on the primary items that cost you the most. They make up for it in accessories, ink and cables. Where-as a discount computer store might only gain a 2% profit margin on a PC, Mac or iPad, they make 500 – 1000% on that USB Printer cable the sales kid tried to sell you for $30.00. If that’s not bad enough, they will often use false tactics such as telling you the gold-plated printer cable for $10.00 more will give you better resolution. That is flat-out false. A digital connection is a digital connection and there will be no difference in quality between the more expensive cable and the cheaper one. The cable either works or it doesn’t work. A USB or HDMI Cable gets data from point A to point B. Now, there are certain electrical standards that a cable must meet in order to complete the task, but generally speaking, if it is advertised to work, it is supposed to work. The longer the cable, the more critical it is that the quality is good enough to do the job. There really is either no in-between with digital cables as is the case with analog, speaker cables where thickness of size can make a significant improvement in the sound of your standing, floor stereo speakers. Don’t get mad at your Best Buy sales person for wanting to sell you an expensive HDMI Cable or USB Printer Cable. They are just doing their job and in many cases, even they don’t realize how over-priced the accessories are that they are selling you. I know this from my own first-hand experience associating with Best Buy Reps when I worked a part-time weekend Gig promoting HP products in their stores. I don’t mind a store wanting to maximize its profit and revenue, but I used to cringe when these trained sales kids would relate false information to their customers about digital cables. Sometimes, the sales managers would try and train me to do the same thing, but I would politely refuse. I could never do that sort of thing and go to sleep that same night with a good conscience for making a customer believe he/she needed something he/she really didn’t need. Where to Buy HDMI Cables is a question with an easy answer.

Buying HDMI Cables Online?

Unfortunately, you won’t find a cheap HDMI Cable at any of your local discount stores. You might be able to find a good deal at your Harbor Freight store, but the absolute lowest pricing on cables comes from a handful of online retailers is where to buy HDMI Cables:

Monoprice.com

I love Monoprice. They have excellent pricing and service and a very large variety of not just cables, but computer, cell phone, audio video accessories, too. I’ve been using monoprice for about 3 years for HDMI Cables. Typically, a 6’ HDMI Cable costs me about $3.0.. Tack on another $3.00 for shipping per cable. Monoprice seems to make up for their low prices by adding a little too much in shipping. However, though, there are cheaper places to buy cables, I know their service is excellent. Cables require only 3 days to get to my home or office in Denver. 8’ HDMI Cables go for about $3.75 and 10’ HDMI Cables about $5.50.. Isn’t this better than paying $39.00 at Walmart, Target or Best Buy?

Merritline.com

Even cheaper than Monoprice, but I have not tried them so I cannot comment on their service. Today you can buy 6’, 8’ and 10’ HDMI cables for about $3.50, $5.50, and $8.99. But, here’s the cool thing: Free shipping., which makes your landed cost less than it does with Monoprice. Again, I’ve not tried meritline, so I cannot speak about their service and delivery.

Buy.com

The cheapest place to find HDMI Cables is Buy.com, though that is not where they ship from .Currently, a place called, SF Planet is selling a 3 pack of HDMI cables for the paltry sum of $6.79 including shipping! Buy.com is a good, one-stop shop to look for cables.

Cheap HDMI Cable Quality

I’ve used Cheap HDMI Cables for 3 years on two different HD Televisons, two different DVD Players and a Blu Ray equipped Playstation 3. I’ve never once had problems with the picture, quality or results of using cheap HDMI Cables. Next time you buy HDMI cables, buy a 6 pack of them from either of the online suppliers above, and pay only a fraction of what you would at Walmart or Best Buy.. Cheap HDMI cables are a no brainer.

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Back UPS RS 1000

Back-UPS RS 1000
Back-UPS RS 1000

A good technological product is like an old pair of tennis shoes or jeans that you never want to replace. They just feel right and you never want to have to get rid of them even though there are newer, more powerful tennis shoes, or…err, UPS products on the market. The Back-UPS RS 1000 is the first serious UPS Backup product I’ve considered for home. In my office, I need to have a bunch of electronics powered into one single place and cannot afford to risk losing power; My beefy desktop computer, monitor, printer, laptop and other electronics that need to stay charged when the computer is turned off. Supposedly a 500VA or 350VA product is powerful enough, but can you ever really feel comfortable in the event of a power outage unless you go all out. The Back UPS RS 1000 by APC provides 1000 VA or 600 Watts of uninterrupted power in the event of a power failure or disruption. This just felt right to me! But it’s not just me. This particular UPS Model has been the long time friend of thousands of people for many years. Now, the old, standby, white Back-UPS has been replaced by a newer version in black with a BR next to its name. Here are the details.

Specifications of the new Back-UPS RS 1000

Back-UPS RS 1000
Back-UPS-R1000G

One of the things I liked about the Back Ups RS 1000 is its sturdy construction and tower, vertical form-factor. Weighing 22lbs, the new, Back Ups RS 1000 UPS is also extremely well made. It stands about 10” high, by 4 inches wide by 15” deep and weighs a hair over 23lbs. I like the vertical tower-type form-factor which makes it easy to place underneath or on top of your desk to the side of your monitor. The RS 1000 has 8 outlets: 4 for backing up your power and 4 just for surge protection only. The Back-UPS RS 1000 provides 14 minutes of backup time in the event of a power failure and has a surge rating of 355 joules which is quite good.

How well does the Back-UPS RS 1000 work?

My website work requires handling several different chores at once. Without UPS Backup Protection, and so many windows open with critical tasks running, any type of power failure could wreak havoc on my heart and soul. On two occasions in the last 3 years, I had very unexpected power failures while in the middle of working on some very critical projects (who isn’t) In one case, it required about 9 minutes of time to get out of all of my projects and safely shut down. The RS 1000 beeps when you have a couple of minutes left of power. I never got to that point. This unit has served it’s purpose and remains a great insurance policy. The original, white colored Back-UPS RS 1000 by APC is no longer made, though you can still see a few of them floating around on the web for around $129.00. It is essentially replaced by the black one above, which sells for around $169.00 – $179.00. If you are the proud owner of one of the older units you can replace the two batteries for them for under $30.00. That’s cheaper than buying a new power supply and since the Back-UPS RS 1000 has served you so well, why would you switch?  Go with the girl that got you to the dance and in this case, it’s the Back-UPS RS 1000.

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Target Beef

Target Beef
Target Beef

Grocery Store Beef Ratings

Target vs. Costco and the Rest

Do you have a beef with the beef at your grocery store? Have you ever grilled that perfect looking steak only to discover it tastes bland and isn’t nearly as juicy and delicious as it looks? A medium-rare, perfectly cooked steak should taste as good as it looks. If it doesn’t meet your expectations on a consistent basis, it is time to consider another beef supplier. If the meat your getting is fresh, but doesn’t taste very good, then it doesn’t matter how well you cook or prepare it. You simply cannot make a great tasting steak or roast from a poor quality choice of beef. Conversely, even an overcooked steak from a good choice of beef can be enjoyable. The key is to find the beef supplier that consistently offers the best what you want. Some Beef Ratings are clearly in order, here.
Four of your favorite Beef Suppliers are rated below on Freshness, Selection, Flavor and Price. Which one hits the target?

Target Beef Ratings vs Kroger Beef

Kroger is known as King Soopers in my local area. I don’t want to run down King Soopers because their pricing and selection of products, overall, still makes them my favorite grocer. Where I have a beef is with King Soopers Beef. For years, I kept tolerating inferior Kroger steaks, fooling myself into thinking I could make it taste better on my next effort. I finally admitted there is just no way to make a great tasting steak out of an inferior cut of beef. King Soopers has plenty of other good products. Their ground beef is okay. Their Pork chops, pork tenderloin, chicken and sausage is all just fine. But when it comes to beef, particularly steaks and roasts, Kroger or King Soopers, just doesn’t cut the mustard. It’s not that the meat isn’t fresh, it just has very little flavor. I don’t believe the problem with Kroger Beef is limited just to their regional King Soopers stores. Relatives and friends in other states have made the same complaints about poor quality steaks and roasts coming Kroger Beef.

Kroger Beef Ratings

  • Freshness: 8
  • Selection: 7
  • Taste / Flavor: 4
  • Price: 7
  • Overall: 65%

 

Target vs Costco

It used to be that whenever I wanted a good tasting steak, I would splurge on Costco. Costco Beef, whether it’s for roasts, steaks or hamburger is usually pretty good, but not always. Their filet cuts are almost always excellent, but I’ve had some pretty ordinary tasting roasts and stew meat coming from Costco. Costco’s Beef selection isn’t the greatest and you can always expect to pay more than you would at the local King Soopers store. But, if you want a tasty, expensive steak, Costco won’t let you down.

Costco Beef Ratings

  • Freshness: 9
  • Selection: 6
  • Taste / Flavor: 7
  • Price: 5
  • Overall: 68%

 

Walmart Beef

It may not be the place to get the best cut of steak or roast, but Walmart Beef, overall beats King Soopers. For selection and price, Walmart Beef has Costco beat too, in my opinion. Face it, we’re not looking to make a gourmet steak everyday. If you want to make 3 or 4 meals a week with reasonably priced beef, Walmart will save you a good deal of money over Costco. Also, I’ve had pretty good luck making decent tasting steaks and roasts from Walmart Beef. Walmart steaks are not always impressive, but they are consistently better than steaks from King Soopers or Kroger Beef.

Walmart Beef Ratings

  • Freshness: 8
  • Selection: 7
  • Taste / Flavor: 6
  • Price: 7
  • Overall: 70%

 

Target Beef

There is one place that never misses the market when it comes to picking out a good cut of meat. When I discovered Target Beef, cooking and eating steaks became fun again. You simply cannot pick out a bad cut of meat from Target. I don’t care whether its ground beef, chuck steak, stew meat, round roasts, rump roasts, rib roasts, t-bone steaks, sirloins, etc., you name it, Target Beef is consistently of a very high quality. For Christmas, I chose a 10lb Rib Roast that was amazing. I’ve also had excellent T-Bones and Sirloin Steaks. But what clearly sets Target Beef apart from the rest is the fact that it’s consistently flavorful and tasty regardless of how much you pay or how you cook it. I’ve taken cheap chuck steaks from Target and fried them in a skillet until they were well done and they still came out tender and delicious. I like my steaks medium-rare, but I’d take an over-cooked steak from Target over a King Soopers medium-rare steak any day. It doesn’t matter whether you grill it, roast it or fry it up in a pan, Target Beef comes out on top.

Target Beef Ratings

  • Freshness: 8
  • Selection: 8
  • Taste / Flavor: 9
  • Price: 8
  • Overall: 83%
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Ruskova Vodka

Ruskova Vodka
Ruskova Vodka

Give us your rating on Ruskova Vodka: 

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It had been a while since I had a good, Vodka Martini when I picked up a 1.75 Liter Bottle of Russian, Ruskova Vodka at my favorite Liquor store. I decided it was about darn time I tried a Russian Vodka, but didn’t want to pay $10-$15 more for a top brand like Stoli. Since finishing off my last bottle of the highly rated, value-priced Svedka Vodka,  I had gotten kind of bored and went back to Gin Martinis and my old stand by scotch martini, the Rob Roy. I didn’t stop there: I even tried the Citrus Flavored Vodka by Rokk which quickly became too sweet for my tastes. Needless to say, I was ready to go back to a good old fashioned, unflavored Vodka Martini with little or no vermouth and a couple of olives. The 1.75 Bottle of Ruskova  for only $16.99 quickly caught my eye. I was tempted to try something new. The more expensive Russian Vodka, Stolichnaya was sort of what I was after, but I was in no mood to pay $26.00 for it. The Ruskova from Russia was right up my alley. Another lesser known Vodka with a value price like the Swedish, Svedka that became my favorite a few months ago. I might have found something better and even a little cheaper here.

Ruskova Vodka is a Russian Vodka

I’m not here to tell you that Ruskova is the Best Russian Vodka, but I can tell you it stacks up very well with most of the other vodkas I’ve tried. In fact, by the time I was half-way down my second martini, I was beginning to believe that Ruskova could quickly become my favorite Vodka Martini brand. Ruskova probably doesn’t have the overall smoothness of the bargain priced Swedish Vodka, Svedka and other more expensive brands. However, Ruskova has something the other non-Russian Vodkas lack: Soul. Ruskova has a little bit of sparkling vanilla flavor. It hits the front of your mouth with a very clean flavor. There is some bitter aftertaste in the way it finishes; much like Sobieski, but it has much more character along the way. Ruskova makes a very tasty martini; full of creamy, clean fruit type flavors that other vodkas lack. It is not too sterile, nor is it to pungent. Ruskova makes an excellent Vodka Martini.

Vodka Martini Secret

If you really want to taste the full spectrum of its unique flavor, use very little olive juice and/or vermouth with a vodka like Ruskova. On my first try of a new vodka, I usually pour a shot into a glass, warm, then sniff and taste. Doing this beforehand will give you a better idea as to how you want to make that first martini with Ruskova Vodka.

Final Rating

  • Smoothness: 90
  • Flavor: 94
  • Value: 90
  • Overall: 90

 

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