Thursday, December 22, 2011

Freecycle Comparative Review: Brooklyn vs. New Hampshire Sea Coast

Brooklyn Freecyle
+ TONS of activity
+ Fun to travel to different neighborhoods
+ People post lots of interesting/weird items
+ Not a lot of "Wanted" emails
- TONS of emails
- No pets
- Carrying 5 grocery bags full of glass dishes on the subway and bus

NH Seacoast Freecycle
+ Fewer emails
+ Pets
+ You get to know certain people who post a lot
+ Lots of farms use it
+ Nice people donating things like turkey dinners at Thanksgiving
- TONS of wanted ads for things like xboxes and bigger tvs
- Some places in NH are unexpectedly far away (New Durham is FAR from Durham)
- Driving 45 min with a huge dresser on top of car is SCARY

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Peppermint Oil for Mice Problems

If you have left a vehicle parked in a wooded area for a few days you may have had this problem. For the past year and a half, I have had 4 or 5 separate incidents of mice taking up residence in the car. This problem is obviously so gross and also scary because mice can wreck your car by chewing on the wiring. I also have the eternal fear of one scampering across my foot while driving.

There are lots of ideas for dealing with mice in the car, from playing loud music to placing a scary garden gnome with big eyes near where you park. Obviously you could use traps, but some people (like me) are too squeamish to deal with the aftermath of that. Peppermint oil is a good option because while it is nontoxic to humans, mice are very sensitive to it. Apparently, they won't go near it.  I put some drops of peppermint essential oil (extract doesn't work) on cotton balls and put them around the car. I suspect this would work in say, kitchen drawers, if you have a mice populations in your house. It does not stop them from nesting, but it will keep them away!

In addition to the peppermint oil, I have driven the car more frequently and I don't live in the woods anymore - and I have had no more mouse problems since July.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New England NPR Stations

MPBN - Maine Public Radio for southern Maine transmits south, far into New Hampshire and even the north shore of Massachusetts. Primary station characteristics include opera almost all day on the weekends and classical music during the week days. I used to always catch the funny, strange show The Vinyl Cafe that seems to play Gordon Lightfoot music while the host narrates weird stories sent in my listeners in some version of poetry voice. I also like the show Snap Judgement hosted by Glynn Washington which I've only ever heard on this station.

NHPR - New Hampshire Public Radio does not have the strongest signal where I live now, but has some funny quirks that I appreciate. I love the guy who reads the NH news and station underwriting throughout the day. (A quick search has revealed that this is Dan Colgan and he is the "Voice of New Hampshire.") I also love the segment Something Wild that tells me about things like squirrel survival strategies and moose license plates. One annoying/hilarious thing about this station is that, since it transmits to every single town in the state, the list of stations takes about 5 minutes to read off.
UPDATE: I like NHPR even more because of the transition music they play between segments and under local news/weather updates. This morning at 8:30am it was Nelly's "It's Getting Hot in Here."

WBUR - When the NHPR disappears while driving east (which it quickly does), and MPBN is playing opera again, you can tune into WBUR out of Boston, MA. This station is frankly like another planet to me. They air many local show that I am not familiar with, such as, Only A Game, and others that don't even sound like NPR shows! This can be disconcerting. However, there have been many times while diving south on 95 that I have been able to hear This American Life on WBUR, in its entirety.

In conclusion, I still love the NPR station from my hometown most of all (WUNC).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Comparison: GRE Prep Books

Figuring out how to prepare for the GRE is so overwhelming. There are tutors, courses, online courses, online practice tests, official ETS practice tests, and a huge range of preparation books. When I realized I would have to take the test this summer, I knew I wasn't willing to pay the high price for an actual prep course. I ended up relying on two books and the official ETS practice test online.

My first book was Kaplan. This book contains 2 full practice tests with an additional test online. I found the math sections to lack much actual review of math concepts. I hadn't studied math since high school, and using this book made me feel like I should know much more than I did which made me feel very nervous.
The verbal practice is very challenging in this book. At first, the difficulty really harmed my morale. But all the other verbal practice I did seemed easier in comparison.
The essay strategies in this book are much better than the Baron's book.

I got this book with about a month left before my test because I realized in a moment of panic that I needed more practice! Immediately, I appreciated the encouraging tone of the Baron's book. It explained things in a way that made me feel capable of not failing the test! It includes a pre-test and two full practice tests. There is a quite thorough review of all the types of math on the test.
The essay review is kind of lacking. The verbal was easy throughout the book, and then the practice tests were pretty hard. Ultimately, I thought the practice tests were super hard, and lowered my morale.

I also used the practice test provided on the GRE website. The best resource, I've heard, is the Powerprep program which simulates the real testing software, BUT IT IS NOT COMPATIBLE WITH MACS. Therefore, I had to take the practice written test, which was still helpful. It was easier than the practice tests in the two books I used and made me feel much better. Most of my GRE practice was about psychological morale.

Interestingly, both Baron's and Kaplan had more than one mistake in either problems or answers that made me generally suspicious as I was checking answers. I think these books will improve as people get used to the Revised test.

Other free websites I found helpful: Endless Reading Comprehension Practice, Free Practice sets, Magoosh GRE Prep (I found some of the free lessons helpful like for example, the one on exponent rules.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Patisserie des Ambassades

In March, one of my friends invited me to use Yelp for the first time.  I didn't then, but since moving back to New York City, I've decided to get back on the review bandwagon and start using it.  I'll be posting those reviews over here, too.  Who knows? Maybe soon I'll be reviewing Yelp! 

Patisserie des Ambassades - 2200 8th Avenue
We stopped in here for a quick dessert after hearing rave reviews about their bread and crème brûlée.  We ordered the crème brûlée and an eclair au café.  I'd thought the eclair would have only cream filling, but it seemed to have lemon curds, so a personal bias against citrus kept me from really loving that.  However, the crème brûlée was absolutely out of this world - some of the best I've ever had.  We had it for take-away, and at $3.50, I would get more again in a heartbeat.

While we didn't sit down, the seating seemed fine, especially the outdoor seating, and the counter service was fast and friendly.  Since it has Senegalese dishes also, I'm looking forward to going again and trying some of their more substantial food.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bad Horse Pizza

In March, one of my friends invited me to use Yelp for the first time.  I didn't then, but since moving back to New York City, I've decided to get back on the review bandwagon and start using it.  I'll be posting those reviews over here, too.  Who knows? Maybe soon I'll be reviewing Yelp! 

Bad Horse Pizza - 2224 8th Avenue
I really loved the pizza we ordered, the Pig & Goat, which had goat cheese, prosciutto, and roasted red peppers.  The combination was delicious, and the crust here was delightfully thin and crispy.  It is, however, a bit expensive for pizza (for two beers and this pizza, the bill came to $42 with tip, though we did have two slices leftover for lunch the next day).

The service was very attentive, and they left a nice, if bizarre note on the back of the receipt thanking us, which I always like.  The decor is simple, but nice for a pizza-place, and I really loved the big wooden shutters around the back windows.

I'd be back, but I think it would be for the happy hour special - plain large pie and two beers for $20.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Make My Cake

In March, one of my friends invited me to use Yelp for the first time.  I didn't then, but since moving back to New York City, I've decided to get back on the review bandwagon and start using it.  I'll be posting those reviews over here, too.  Who knows? Maybe soon I'll be reviewing Yelp! 

Make My Cake - 121 St. Nicholas Avenue: 

I split the double-chocolate cupcake; it was delicious and the perfect size for two.  Very moist cake, and the frosting was absolutely amazing (and this from someone who doesn't like frosting very much).  The frosting had a familiar taste, a little bit like the out-of-the-box kind we had when I was growing up, but so much fresher and clearly homemade, so it was perfect.  The price was a little steep at $4 for one, but as I said, the size was big.  I also really loved the pink decor everywhere, and the woman behind the counter was excellent - told us about her favorite cakes, and was so friendly.  I'll definitely be back to try a slice of cake!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

iGoogle Moon Phase by Aaron Hopkins

I love the iGoogle Moon Phase "gadget" by Aaron Hopkins. Every time I go to iGoogle which is my default website, I can easily catch up on the moon's current phase. It displays a realistic yet charming illustration of what the moon looks like, with a numerical percentage and description. Right now it is Waning Gibbous at 82% lit. This enables you to comment on the current moon phase and people are always impressed/shocked at your knowledge of natural systems.

Are there better rated moon phase "gadgets" out there for iGoogle? Probably. But this was the first one on the list to install, and I recommend it to you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

George F. Cram 10 1/2 inch Plasti-Lite Illuminated Globe

The globe lamp does not emit much light. It is kind of a reddish glow, with the continents glowing slightly more brightly. The whole operation is a little janky -- at first I couldn't tell if it was homemade or not. The cardboard globe is attached to the frame by a screw that goes directly into a fraying cardboard hole. (it is used from goodwill)

We used the globe lamp in the evenings during our middle school nature program. It looked great lit up next to a ceramic lighthouse candle lantern during our evening quiet singing. The globe lamp (which has countries like Southern Arabia) easily takes on a mystical symbol. I recommend this globe to anyone!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

music, online

here are some small reviews about ways to listen to music online:

Pandora: Remember when this one came out? It was crazy. I haven't been that into pandora for a few years, and especially now with the ads they put on.  The music selection was too repetitious and I often didn't like the things they chose for me to listen to.

lastfm: I don't really get lastfm, except that I know I have an account there and I've listened to stuff.  Pretty similar to pandora but I like the selection better.  More independent artists, and you can listen to friends' "stations" of stuff they like.  You can compile artists you like and they play a selection -- I think.  Also, I think there is a way to hook up your itunes to it but I don't know about that.

8tracks:  My housemate told me about 8tracks.  On this site, you can listen to tons of playlists made by other users. I liked it pretty good for about a day, but then couldn't seem to find any playlists that I found consistently to my liking. There aren't ads, and theoretically this would be a good way to discover new music.

Grooveshark: My other housemate told me about grooveshark, and so far it's my favorite of these sites.  You put in an artist or song name, and you can add tracks to your play queue. I don't know how this is legal, but so far I've been able to hear lots of music I've been curious about, but didn't want to purchase. So far I think every artist I've searched has come up in their database. Somehow it searches all music uploads and makes them available. No ads!

Bonus Options:

NPR Tiny Desk Concert: I love getting these via the "All Songs Considered Podcast." Very famous musicians like Bela Fleck, or lesser known, but talented musicians perform a few songs at the NPR music office.  I've liked or really liked everything I've heard here.  It has been a good way to discover new music.

Snore and Guzzle Radio Hour:  Eclectic hours of music put together by an individual and downloadable to your computer. Thematic descriptions such as: " I’d say this radio hour would be a good soundtrack to accompany the study of the anatomy of flight and bird migration patterns."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

FLUFFY: Keste Pizza

Guys, Leah pointed out to me today that, despite only being updated once a month or so for the past year and a half, Small Reviews gets more hits everyday than the blog I painstakingly update everyday.  And also that our most popular entry, Behr Paint Color 710c-3: Gobi Desert, gets as many hits in a week as my most popular entry ever has gotten in three months.  Clearly, folks, you have been ignored too long, and we're sorry.  Today, the pause ends.  Maybe.

This afternoon, my boss took us to a very nice lunch at Keste Pizzeria (warning: that website plays music) in the West Village.  It was amazing.  I went in with no expectations (this was part of the key, I think, to why I didn't love Grimaldi's so much), and I was just delighted with the pizza.  I ordered a prosciutto e arugola, which is my signature favorite pizza of all time.  It's hard to mess up, so they had that going for them already, but Keste took it to a whole new level of delicious.  The crust was perfect: light and fluffy, with a crisp black exterior layer from the giant wood-burning oven in the back.  The mozzarella was fresh, the prosciutto perfectly salted, and the arugula just bitter enough to settle the whole into a perfect melding of wonderful pizza.  The other pizzas in our group (one with sausage and one very similar to mine, but with shaved pecorino and tomato sauce) looked equally good.

Our waiter was very nice and even seemed passionate about the specials, but wasn't overbearing the way waiters can sometimes be.  The restaurant is small, and I've heard it can get quite crowded and noisy, but we went early, so that wasn't a problem for us at all.  We were seated right away, and it was more than quiet enough for us to chat.  The prices were a little high (between $9-$18 for a pizza, but most are $15-18), so it certainly couldn't be my first go-to pizzeria, but for a business lunch or special evening, I would say the food is more than worth it.  Everything felt extremely high-quality, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone searching for some filling, delicious pizza on Bleeker.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

One day, I woke up with the wish to have an international penpal.  Years ago, I tried some mail exchange sites, but have seemed either too public or fizzled out since I last saw them.

I found as an alternative and decided to try it out.  It is an active site with lots of users.  Here is how postcrossing works: you sign up and request an address.  The site emails you the address of some person in the world (you can indicate if you want only international addresses or if you're ok with domestic too) and a little description that the person writes about his or herself.  You also write a numerical code somewhere on the postcard.  Once the person receives the card, they enter it into the website, and you get "credit" for having sent it.  For every postcard you send, your address will be provided to another user so that you can get one.

So far, I have sent a postcard to someone in the Netherlands, and someone in Taiwan.  By accident, I received 4 postcards in return, from Buffalo, NY; China; Finland; and Japan.

I like that the website doesn't publicly display your address but I also preferred being able to browse through people's profiles myself in order to find an address.  I have found it kind of unsatisfying and limiting to just send postcards here and there to random people.

I might try to find another mail project, but I don think I'll request another address from postcrossing for now.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Best SuperBowl Commercials

Hello, all. These are my favorite Super Bowl 45 commercials:

Edit for Clarity: The first is my favorite because OH MY GOD IT'S ADORABLE. Who doesn't want to make their small child feel like they magical? Even if they are using that magic for the dark side... The second is my second favorite because, come on. Doritos bring people back to life? Haha!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Midflight Movies

Hello, friends! It's been a while, hasn't it? Hope you're all enjoying 2011. As some of you may know, I rang in the New Year in France, and since I saw three movies on the plane back, I thought I'd give a quick review of each, in the order that I saw them.

The story, roughly, of a group of people who can enter into someone's subconscious to steal their ideas and go in to plant one, I really enjoyed Inception. The cinematography was really interesting, I liked all the actors in it, and the storyline was complicated but never felt confusing. I know it's a little too sci-fi for some people, but I thought it had enough in the way of drama and personality not to make that an issue. Also, who isn't interested in meta-meta-meta-meta stories?

I'm not, in general, a hyperemotional person at the movies. In real life, maybe a little bit, but at the movies, unless it's really late at night and I'm alone and feeling sorry for myself, I can usually keep it together. So, imagine my surprise when I found myself repeatedly choked up at Up, an animated Disney-Pixar film. The story of an elderly man who sets out to live his and his wife's lifelong dream of moving to a faraway land, this movie is an emotional rollercoaster. I was laughing, I was crying, I was constantly up and down and up and down. It was absolutely beautiful, completely heartbreaking at points, and just the best movie I've seen in a long, long time. Possibly the best movie I've seen since Wall-E. Yes, I really like Pixar films.

A sort-of bizarre, kind of cute romantic comedy, Killers stars Ashton Kutcher as an ex-hitman, and Katherine Heigl as his too-perfect wife. I liked both of them in it, and Tom Selleck as Kutcher's father-in-law was hilarious, but I'm not in love with car chases and violence, and that makes up a fair amount of the film (probably in an attempt to make guys watch it), and I'm also not in love with hyper-contrived love&marriage&baby stories, which makes up the rest of the film (probably in an attempt to make girls watch it).

The moral: If you're stuck on a plane for 8 hours and can't sleep, Killers will do in a pinch, and Inception is good, but really, Up is where it's at.