Thursday, January 29, 2015

Power Pressure Cooker XL Second Look Review

Now that I've had an opportunity to use the Power Pressure Cooker XL in various modes, I can offer a more experienced review.

My experienced judgment is--buy one of these pressure cookers. I've made soup, stew, cooked chicken, steamed vegetables, browned meat, and so forth. Here's what I like:

  • Unlike traditional pressure cookers, the Power XL does not emit steam during cooking. The pressure is apparently regulated by a temperature or pressure control that provides just the right pressure. If you don't want to wait until the steam pressure goes down as the unit cools, you can let the steam off manually at the end of the cook cycle.
  • The cooking timer is built in. No need to set a separate timer and listen for the beep before you take the cooker off the stove. Instead, you set the timer on the cooker and it automatically switches to Keep Warm when the cook time is over.
  • It's easy to clean. The internal pot comes out of the cooker shell and is non-stick lined. It can be put in the dishwasher or done in the sink.The internal pot is light weight and easy to handle.
  • It's really flexible. Cook rice, brown rice, roasts, stews, soups, vegetables (the steamer function works great).
I use the Power Pressure Cooker XL about once a week. It has always produced a great meal.

What I would change:
  • My greatest complaint is the lame and skinny cookbook that comes with the cooker. But it is the basic instructions that should be included. Example:
  • Be aware that cooking times listed on a recipe reflect the time to cook AFTER the cooker has been pressurized. The time needed for the cooker to heat up and produce enough steam to pressurize the vessel can range from a few minutes to 20 minutes or more. Thus, "Steam vegetables in 3 minutes," means 3 minutes after the 15-minute warm up to steam.
In a word, you need to experiment with settings and cooking times (using the adjustable time button) to get the results you want. I made a delicious beef stew by setting the cooker to 30 minutes.

I must say I'm glad I broke my old pressure cooker (handle), which had been in the family for at least 30 years. I am very happy with this cooker.

Full disclosure: I purchased the Power Pressure Cooker XL at retail (while looking for a conventional model), and at no point was given any incentive or asked for a positive (or any other) review. Your experience may vary.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

ShaveMate Titan 6 All-in-One Disposable Razor Review

For a great, close shave and the convenience of built-in shaving cream for vacation or business travel, you might want to consider the ShaveMate Titan 6.

I have always thought that more than two blades was a gimmick in razors, because my experience with 3, 4, and 5 bladed disposables was not good. Those razors scraped and dragged and then clogged, making it difficult to clean them. The six blades of the Titan 6, however, are quite a bit narrower than  the blades of the other disposable razors, and they are seemingly made of higher quality steel. If you shave everyday, you'll get a close, smooth shave and an easy-rinsing blade set. If you wait a couple of days to shave, you'll have a bit more skritchy shave, but ultimately still nice and close. The longer hairs do produce a bit of blade clog, however.

The shaving cream in the handle truly is "thick, rich" stuff, as the package says. It's the best shaving cream I've used in quite awhile. The downside is that, while the package says you'll get enough shaving cream for "a week or more," I got only four days' worth. However, it is likely that I am in the habit of using too much of the more watery stuff  I usually use. (That's probably why it comes in such a big can.) So, by carefully proportioning the amount of shaving cream you dispense, it is possible to get a week's worth from the razor.

After four shaves, I am still getting a smooth shave with the feeling that the blades are still sharp. My wife even commented that I managed to get the hair right under my nose shaved close, something that the other razors I've used weren't doing.

Price: A three pack of  Titan 6 razors is available on the company's Web site ( for $12 plus $3 shipping and  handling, making the razors $5 each. If you get 10 shaves from each razor, that's 50 cents per shave. By comparison, Harry's Razors sells 8 blades for $31, designed to last two months, which also comes out to 50 cents a shave. Also by comparison, Gillette ProGlide razors are about $5.75 each, A Schick Quattro handle and two blades is about $8, with disposables less. Costco recently offered 26 Gillette disposables for $20, implying that each razor was good for two weeks, making those 26 blades a year's supply. If one lasts for two weeks, that's about 5.5 cents per shave, nearly one tenth the price. So, all in all, the Titan 6, while not cheap, is within the ballpark of other premium razors.

Recommendation. The shaving experience is great, and the shaving cream, while it lasts, is superior. I would use the Titan 6 for a travel razor. My frugality makes me hesitate to make it a daily razor after the current, test model gets dull. I will be comparing various razors together with their costs in future reviews. So stay tuned.

Full Disclosure: I was given a sample of a Titan 6 by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Short Sticking Gas Station Scam and How to Avoid It

I was just checking the oil on my car when it reminded me of a gas station scam that has been played in the past. Now that so many gas stations are self-service, perhaps this scam is practiced less. But just for your information here is one way crooks will attempt to cheat you. It's called short sticking and is or was most common along interstate routes where drivers are covering a lot of miles in a day.

Short sticking. You're in the middle of nowhere when you stop for gas. You are delighted that this is a full-service gas station. The helpful attendant washes your windshield and checks your oil. Good thing, too, because you are a quart low. He shows you the dipstick and you can see for yourself that the oil level is at the bottom of the stick. Helpfully, the attendant sells you a quart of oil (at inflated prices--maybe twice what you'd pay anywhere else--but what can you do?) and installs it for free. He shows you the dipstick again and the oil level is right up where it should be. You drive away relieved and thankful that the problem was found and taken care of.

Rewind a minute. This scam is called short sticking because the attendant didn't put the dipstick in all the way, resulting in the appearance that the car was a quart or more low. But don't worry, the attendant didn't overfill your crankcase with superfluous oil. He sold you a can of imaginary oil, an empty can that he pretended to pour into your car. He's probably sold that can of imaginary oil to 36 people just today. And imaginary oil has a 100 percent profit margin.

How to prevent this scam. This scam is easy to prevent. (1) Check your oil each morning while on a long trip. Most modern cars don't use much, if any, oil these days, but you will feel more confident if you do check. (2) When confronted with a dipstick that shows your oil is low, say, "Really? Let's wait a minute for the oil to settle in the crankcase. On this car it can take a few minutes. And then I can check it again. No need for you to take your time. Thanks for your help." Note that this little speech precludes the attendant's comeback of "Don't you trust me?" and gives a perfectly good reason for rechecking the oil yourself.

Scam insurance. If you really want to be on top of the game, keep a quart or two of your car's oil in the trunk. If you're told you're a quart low, follow the script above, and add, "Luckily, I have some extra oil with me, so I can put it in if need be."

Useful learning. Learn these things about your car: (1) What type and grade of oil it uses (conventional, synthetic). (2) What viscosity (for example, 10W-30, 0W-20, 5W-20). (3) Where the oil filler tube is and  how to take off the cap. (4) Where the dipstick is and how to read the oil level.