Here’s my very personal Best and Worst of 2005.
Worst movie: War of the Worlds
The movie should have been a blockbuster, but the focus on Tom Cruise and his little family wasn’t broad enough. I kept wondering what was happening in the rest of the world during the War. Plus Cruise’s goofiness is distracting.
Best buy (exercise equipment): Domyos weight machine & Domyos cross-trainer (tie)
We got a weight/workout machine (similar to this) in July and the cross-trainer (like this) in October, and much to my own surprise I liked them both a lot and started using them pretty regularly. Within a few weeks I could notice some of my pants were bit looser than before. I’m sure they’ll all be tight after our holiday visit to the U.S., but I’m actually looking forward to starting the routine up again.
Worst buy (exercise equipment): Ab trainer thing and step machine.
After using the ab-trainer (like this) several times a week for a few months, I was disgusted to discover I could barely do one regular sit-up without it. I immediately dumped the ab-trainer and started doing regular sit-ups. The story with the step machine is similar: after months of regular use I could barely go five minutes on the cross-trainer.
Worst buy (camera): Kodak Z740
I was looking for a super zoom camera with at least 10x zoom and 4 mega pixels, that also used AA batteries. Kodak had a couple of models and I started looking into them, despite my better judgement. Since I worked for a camera shop many years ago I always knew Kodak’s bad reputation for cameras. We would even tell our customers that Kodak made great film but lousy cameras. Well, that was over 10 years ago and besides, the camera market is much changed since those years when film started dying and APS came out as a last gasp for traditional film. Anyway, I read a few online reviews of the Z740 and after having a first-hand look in the shops, I bought one. At first I was completely delighted, especially with the 10x zoom. I wanted to get the camera in time for our trip to Florida to capture wildlife we expected to see. But after a few tests I noticed that the 5mp pictures looked worse than the pictures taken by our 4mp Canon A80. The pictures were compressed so much that they were consistently smaller than the A80’s photos. There was a lot of purple fringing as well. We brought the camera to Florida, but sold it on eBay shortly afterwards, for about 80% of the price we had paid for it new. I’m in the market for a new super-zoom camera. I’ve been looking at the Nikon S4, and the Canon S2IS. I know Canon is great but the compact size of the Nikon is very appealing. We just learned that the Nikon also lacks the ability to adjust the compression rate, so the bulkier Canon is looking better.
Best buy (camera): Canon A70 plus underwater housing
After we completed our PADI Open Water Diver certification in July, we started thinking about taking a diving holiday, and I started looking for an underwater camera. From our experience with the Canon A80 we knew Canons were good, and from online reviews I learned that their underwater housings were also of good quality. I started looking for a good deal on housings on eBay and managed to snatch up the WP-DC700 for only $50 using Buy It Now. Next I started looking for a camera to put inside. Since I had to have the camera and housing shipped to my parents in the states and then ask them to send them to us in Holland, I had to allow enough time for the global postal systm to do its thing. Time was running out so I also bought a Canon A70 using Buy It Now for $120 as new. Both arrived at our house before our trip and we were extremely pleased with the quality of the pictures. I am also quite happy using the 3mp A70 to replace the crappy 5mp Kodak.
Best deal: Delhi tickets with Airmiles
After about two years of saving Airmiles with Shell, Albert Heijn, Dixon’s and others, we accumulated 10,000 Airmiles, which we used to buy non-stop tickets with KLM from Amsterdam to Delhi next spring. When saving Airmiles, the usual ratio is one euro spent = one Airmile. With Shell one liter of fuel = one Airmile. There are also possibilities to get “bonus” Airmiles when purchasing special items. When redeeming Airmiles, most participating stores use the ratio 100 Airmiles = one euro. With our 10,000 Airmiles we saved over 400 euros. So if you are saving Airmiles, you should know that you get the most euros from your Airmiles with KLM!
Worst deal: DVDSoon
This Canadian online DVD store often had the best deals on the internet, especially when taking into account international shipping costs. We placed an order with them in November but two weeks later we were notified that they went out of business. Fortunately we could still get our money back. The site seems to be up and running again, but I don’t think we’ll be ordering from them again any time soon.
Best service: Colona Divers
Okay, as newbies we’re easy to please, but we still want to sing the praises of Colona Divers in Hurghada. The staff was friendly and accomdating to our concerns, the boats were great and the price was very reasonable. We highly recommend Colona Divers and look forward to diving with them again.
Worst service: Portaal
In August we had a flood in the house. There was a lot of rain in a short time and all of the water from our neighborhood flowed through our neighbors back yards and into our living room. When the water cleared out we could see that the street drains were completely full of crud. The city denied responsibility for cleaning them and said that Portaal, a home rental ageny, had the responsibility. We are buying our house, but most of our neighbors are renting from Portaal. We learned from one of our neighbors that it had been many years since the last time the drains were cleaned. Arthur called them almost every day for weeks following the flood and continually got the run-around from them. Finally about 6 weeks after the flood some maintenance workers from Portaal came to the neighborhood to clean the drains. They did not clean them all and when Arthur pointed this out to them, while they were still in the neighborhood, they refused to clean them. The service from Portaal is truely abysmal and it’s no wonder they “won” for the second time in a row the worst rental agency in the Netherlands.
Best new TV show: Prison Break
It’s got the goofiest premise on TV: a guy robs a bank in order to get into the prison where his brother, on death row for a crime he did not commit, is scheduled to be excecuted within weeks, with the end purpose to break them both out. But what compelling television! The acting is great (nice to see Stacey Keach back in a series) and the plot, while admittedly outrageous, still makes sense and the actions of the characters are true. I can’t wait for this to start up again in March.
Worst new TV show: Invasion, E-Ring, Surface, Reunion, Threshold (5-way tie)
We only managed to watch half an episode of E-Ring before giving up. We stayed with Reunion another 2 episodes. The writing on Threshold was horrible, plus I could never remember the name of it (I kept calling it “Contingency”). We stayed with Invasion and Surface a bit longer, about 5 episodes each. The molasses-slow plotting of Invasion did it in for us – nothing seemed to happen after the pilot episode. Surface was okay until the characters started getting goofy. The idea that the government was able to keep news of the creatures from the general public became more implausible every episode. Plus the sub-plot with the teenage boys was completely ridiculous – 13-year-old kids are not that stupid.