Michelin Defender 2 Review

defender 2

We don't write about tires too often but figured we'd share our thoughts on the Michelin Defender 2 as we couldn't find any reviews. We recently installed a set of these on a Subaru Impreza and have been pleased with the results. After several thousand miles we can say the tires perform as expected. The ride is comfortable, the handling is good and the noise is minimal.

The car rolls and tracks well. We also drove in a recent rainstorm and didn't notice any significant change in handling or breaking distances. We also tried to spin the tires at a couple of stoplights and the tires wouldn't do it. Of course, the Subaru is an all wheel drive car, so that helps but we tried and the Michelin's weren't having it.

The other tire we were considering for this care is the General Altimax RT43, which is a great tire that we have on another car. The Defender 2 and the Altimax are similar in their aspirations to provide a good all around tire for most people that a combination of comfort, handling and longevity. Both are in that 65,000 – 80,0000 mileage warranty. I've owned lots of tires over the years and have never come close to getting the mileage the tire companies claim you can get. The Defender 2 mileage warranty is 80K miles. I don't think I'll get there. However, it does instill some level of value when you consider the tire performs very well.  Plus, if the tire wears out faster than anticipated Michelin will issue a credit towards a replacement.

The previous tires installed on the Subaru Impreza were Yokohama 740GTXs. The 740GTX were great tires but certainly picked up more road noise over the life of the tire. We're very happy we decided to go with the Defender 2 for this latest batch of 4.

If we still have the car in a few years we'll do an update to this review and report back on the actual mileage we're able to get out of these tires. We predict well shy of 80K but we'll see.

On more note, we get asked about Costco versus America's Tires all the time. Yes, you can save a few bucks at Costco and they often have rebates but the service is not readily accessible. It's just harder to get in there and the tires often take longer to get.  America's tire cost a little more but it's just easier to get in and out of there unless you live a sparsely populated area where your local Costco isn't so nuts. Can't go wrong with either and you will generally save about $100-$200 at Costco.  

Visit Michelin to see all the specs on the Defender 2


Skullcandy Riff Wireless Headphones Review

skull candy riff wireless

These headphones offer good value with quality sound, a comfortable fit and easy pairing to your phone. The hardest part of using these headphones is just getting them out of the box. Pairing is seamles and they're way more comfortable to wear than the images would suggest.  For $30 you'll be hard pressed to find a better on-ear solution for walking and listening to music or talking on the phone.  We would not recommend these for running, travel or office use as they will not block out enough external use.  However, for walking in the neighborhood and being ready to take calls these are a good solution.  The microphone sounds great, just like talking directly into the phone.  You'll want to avoid lound streets and misc. noise because these are not noise canceling and all that racket will come through on the other side.  Build wise it's fine as long as you don't abuse your stuff.  The headband is plastic and yes we could easily snap it if we tried.  But again, back to the $30 price point, what do you expect.  Overall we were pleasantly surprised with the Riff line from Skullcandy.

Visit Skullcandy for more information and all the specs on the Riff headphones. 


Christmas in Chicago - Pre Pandemic Remix


A Good, Basic Office Chair for Working From Home


The ÖRFJÄLL swivel office chair from IKEA is a good chair and good value at $49. We recently tested everything at IKEA with both male and female users. The ÖRFJÄLL stood out as the most comfortable and best value. It's a simple design that allows you mix and match seat and base colors. Assembly takes just a few minutes too. So if you find yourself on your next Zoom call sitting on a ergonomically challenged dining chair with a sore back and behind, consider getting yourself a decent office chair. Your body will thank you. 



See an Eco-Friendly Backyard Cottage in 700 Square Feet


A really cool little cottage. Would be amazing to have this as a creative studio out back.


Asha Mevlana's Tiny Amplified House

Cool house and a beautiful soul

Amazing A-Frame in LA

yes, at one time, this was a kit you could buy from Sears.

Nest Learning Thermostat 2.0 Review

The Nest thermostat provides an incredibly thoughtful design with a friendly analog front end. Nest has taken something as mundane as a thermostat and tricked it out in an attractive package with smart phone apps and a PC dashboard to appreciate the intelligence inside. This is the company's initial foray into home automation and a sign of much bigger things to come.

Installing Nest is as easy as matching the wires to appropriate terminals. Nest says it’s compatible with 05% of 24V systems. Essentially, if you have a typical thermostat that is basically a low voltage on/off switch with some programmability, you can upgrade to Nest with little to no drama.

Is it nuts to spend $250 on a thermostat? Yes and no. Today’s thermostats offer plenty of programming options to set conditions inside your home for larger blocks of time. For example you may program the device to heat or cool in the morning, late morning, evening and late evening. That works pretty well for most folks but it’s not very dynamic and what happens when no one’s actually in the house?

Nest takes these gross adjustments and continually builds on them with the micro adjustments you make during the day and any movement the house that triggers the sensor in the thermostat. All this is data is wirelessly fed to the app to continually improve performance, become more efficient and hopefully drive your energy costs down.

We really like Nest. The 2.0 design is even sleeker and it pretty much works as advertised. It’s a very impressive feat to make the thermostat cool (no pun intended). If the net result is lower energy costs, which we can’t confirm until after an extended period of use, so much the better and that’ll make the $250 price tag a little easier to take.

Visit Nest for more information and all the specs.

NuGreen LED Desk Lamp Review

We love this lamp. The NuGreen LED desk lamp from Newer Technology has a sleek, solid design that features 50 LEDs that give off plenty of natural light. The light works well at a computer workstation, bedside or just to help light up a small bedroom.

NewerTech does a good job packaging the NuGreen LED desk lamp. It comes nicely folded and wrapped in soft touch packaging materials. No assembly is required. If NewerTech can figure out how to lose the wall-wart and build the power supply into the base of the unit that would make this lamp even better. The aluminum material and quality finish helps offset the cheapish wall wart.

The lamp also has some nice design touches. The on/off switch is a soft touch design at the base of the flexible neck. NewerTech includes a sticker on the base of the unit that calls out how to use the soft touch control. Perhaps some folks are still more comfortable with a traditional mechanical switch. We like the red glow when it’s in the off position as well. Very cool.

The NuGreen LED desk lamp is little pricey with a street price of about $60. However, we think this is money well spent. The lamp creates cleaner, brighter light than a standard bulb, is mercury free and is estimated to last 22x longer. Plus the LEDs don’t generate any heat, making this an ideal reading lamp for kids as well.

Visit Newer Technology for information on the NuGreen LED desk lamp.

Sony ICF-C414 Dream Machine Clock Radio Review

So it's back to school time. The end of summer is near and you may have to actually get out of bed at a pre designated time. We're not happy about it either. But with that in mind, if you need a little help consider the Sony ICF-C414 Dream Machine clock radio.

We recently went on the hunt for a basic clock radio for about $20. When it comes to clock radios we have very simple requirements. It must have a big bright display, have hardy controls and be easy to set and include a good AM/FM tuner. Some type of battery backup in case the power goes out is always good to have too.

Now you would think in this day and age that would be a slam dunk. But it's not. We encountered all kinds of junk. Sony is one of the last companies making decent clock radios these days. You can find boatloads of iPhone/pod ready contraptions and even lamps with built in docks for more money. But when it comes to the simple clock radio for $20 or less there's not a whole lot to choose from.

The original "Dream Machine' was one of our all time favorite clock radios. It was a simple white or black cube with all the basic features and battery backup. It worked great.

But then Sony lost its way for a while and started adding too many features and buttons and funky (not the good funky) knobs on the side of its radios and suddenly its Dream Machine lineup became more of a nightmare.

Well we're happy to say the Sony ICF-C414 is a true Dream Machine to use. The display is huge, the controls are simple and the radio sounds pretty good. For $20 this is the benchmark for a good quality, no frills clock radio.

Visit Sony for more information.

Panasonic FV-11VKL3 Ventilation Fan With Light Review

Panasonic is one of our favorite brands and over the years we’ve reviewed a lot of Panasonic products. This includes TVs, cameras, boomboxes, vacuum cleaners and myriad other gadgets. Now we dive into the home improvement side of things with the Panasonic FV-11VKL3 ventilation fan with built-in light.

We recommend professional installation of this fan unless you have a lot of attic space to work with. If you’re replacing a standard Nutone or some other brand common at the big box stores be prepared to create a larger opening for the FV-11VKL3. You may need a little mud to patch things up after the installation.

The FV-11VKL3 is a professional grade product and is built with quality components and designed to provide many years of service while resisting rust with galvanized parts.

Once installed, we were blown away, no pun intended, by how quiet this fan is. It moves a lot of air but it’s very quiet. This is similar to large computer fans that move more air but make less noise. It’s counterintuitive to some but once you get used to the quiet purr of the FV-11VKL3, and a large portion of the Panasonic lineup for that matter, everything else sounds like a small airplane.

The built-in light is perfect for a small bathroom. It’s bright and powers up quickly making the FV-11VKL3 the ideal all in one solution where fan/light combinations are a must.

Panasonic rarely disappoints. Yes, there was that lame Blu-ray player we tested a while back but for the most part its amazing how many products this company makes and makes well. The FV-11VKL3 is a high quality fan that we anticipate will provide many years of services. It’s extremely quiet, looks great and moves a lot of air.  You can’t ask for much more than that.

If you’re in the market for a ventilation fan, we highly recommend looking at the Panasonic lineup. You’ll pay a little more but for something you’ll use everyday it’s well worth it.

Visit Panasonic for more information.

Dishwasher Magic Review

This stuff works. We live in an area with very hard water and it’s extremely tough on dishwashers. Naturally we’ve tried every possible remedy to remove hard water and general build up inside the various dishwashers we’ve owned over the years. This includes the vinegar rinse, CLR, lemon juice and more.

The issue is exasperated by the new eco friendly dishwasher designs which uses less water and require just the right combination of water temperature and additives such as Jet Dry to work correctly. It’s not like using the old Kenmore machines that just seemed to work forever without any issues.

These days cleaning machines require cleaning. This goes for high efficiency washing machines as well.

Dishwasher Magic is very simple to use. Just place it upside down in a secure location in the dishwasher. A wax plug melts to release the mostly Citric Acid solution to clean and sanitize the dishwasher.

We were very skeptical about using this product. Anything with the word “magic” in the name usually gives us pause. However, we must say it did an impressive job on a dishwasher that appeared to be on its last legs. The unit was cleaned and smelled much better after using Dishwasher Magic.

Visit Dishwasher Magic for more information and to check the hard water levels in your neighborhood.