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Dom in the Morning



by Dom posted May 3 2015 3:31PM
2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport
Car provided by manufacturer
Reviewed by Dom


People love their crossovers. The entire segment has grown in popularity over the last few years, and Lexus has cashed in with the RX350. So why would they need another crossover?

Dunno. To my eye the RX seems like more of a traditional SUV, which opens up a spot for the NX.(Sheesh, car makers, enough with the alphabet soup! How about going back to NAMES for these things? But that's another article.)

Lexus throws you a curve by powering the NX with a 2.0 liter/4-cylinder engine, one that puts out 235 horsepower; it's plenty for scooting around town. And as with all Lexus vehicles, the ride is remarkably quiet. Well, unless you turn up the ASC (Active Sound Control), which pumps up the engine noise inside the cockpit to let you enjoy the growl. Kinda silly in some respects, but I suppose there are fans.

From the outside the NX looks quite pleasing, with nice lines and a graceful style. You'll never exactly make crossover vehicles look too far removed from their station wagon relationship (don't shudder), but at least they look more eco-friendly than their SUV sibs.
by Dom posted May 1 2015 2:23PM

The Martian, by Andy Weir
Reviewed by Dom

Not long ago there was a news story about people who were volunteering to go to Mars on a one-way trip. I'm one of those science nerds who would raise his hand if this was truly a possibility.

So this month's book selection, The Martian, attracted me right away. Then I read the first page and knew that it was gonna be good.

Then I finished it and immediately placed it into my all-time Top Ten. It's beyond good.


The story is told primarily from the viewpoint of Mark Watney, an astronaut/scientist who is accidentally left behind on the surface of Mars. If your first question is: How do you accidentally leave someone behind? Read the book.

Now imagine you're Mark Watney: You must (a) find shelter right away, a place that provides pressure, heat, and air (b) figure out how to produce both food and water, because there's no grocery store on the corner (c) figure out a way to let the good people of Earth know that YOU'RE STILL HERE AND ALIVE without communications gear, and (d) keep your sanity and sense of humor.

That last part - the sense of humor - is what truly solidifies Andy Weir's first book (his FIRST book!) in my hall of fame. Watney is not only a remarkably resourceful and intelligent guy, he's a riot. I laughed out loud (the real kind, not some fake LOL) so many times while reading this, and you will, too.

Folks on Earth finally do realize what's happened, and the next step is getting a rescue team back to Mars to pick him up. So Watney has to survive for a long time and also help with the rescue plan.

This book has everything a science nerd will love, but you don't have to be scientifically-oriented to get it. Weir does a fantastic job of explaining the science (who knew that potatoes would be the best choice for Mars farming?) and keeping it fun and exciting for hundreds of pages.

A rollicking space adventure that champions the indomitable human spirit - while making you laugh. It adds up to a classic.

(Note: Because of its phenomenal success, of course Hollywood has come calling. Matt Damon will play the part of Watney in a film directed by Ridley Scott. Expect it around Thanksgiving of 2015.)

Find The Martian by Andy Weir at The Tattered Cover Book Store. Mention Dom's Book Club at checkout and you'll get 20% off The Martian. Enjoy!

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by Dom posted Apr 20 2015 4:19PM
2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Reviewed by Dom Testa
Car provided by the manufacturer


I don’t know if this disclaimer is even important, but I’m compelled to say up front that I drive a hybrid myself (the Lexus ES300), so I do have a warm place in my heart for the green machines.

And Toyota definitely seems to have a jones for this segment, because they have seven different hybrid models. Some want to start in the smaller market and run with the Prius, while others want something a little beefier. That’s where the Avalon comes in. It takes the power plant of the Camry hybrid and sneaks in a few more frills.

Power
Don’t think for a moment, though, that you’re sacrificing much by choosing a larger car and a gas/electric combo. Sure, it’s a 4-cylinder gas engine, which ultimately ends up producing about 200 horsepower. But in the week that I spent behind the wheel I never felt like the car was underpowered at all. In fact, the Avalon has a nice acceleration, even in those times where some oomph is critical.

Looks
Let’s start with the outside. The Avalon has a nice, somewhat sophisticated line that doesn’t look that different from some European big shots - but at half the price. A friend of mine said it was “handsome.” Okay, I can live with that.

Slide behind the wheel and you’re treated to leather (in all of the trim levels, not just the Limited). The seats are spacious and comfy. Plus there are nice features throughout. Even the entry-level model (which is still called Premium - I’m confused) spoils you with an impressive array of standard features: heated mirrors, auto-dimming rear-view, heated seats, keyless ignition, and more. You do get your money’s worth.

Step up to the Limited and add things like ventilated seats and rear power sunshades. With various option packages you can build on quite nicely, too.

Toyota did a nice job with the dash layout, too. Everything is easy to find and figure out. Cheers to car makers who don’t try to blow your mind with gadget grief. You’ll like the Toyota Entune system, which is standard on all of the models.

I like the storage in the Avalon, whether it’s the front seat compartments or the trunk space. I’m a stickler for sizable center storage bins, and this car doesn’t disappoint. Plus, Toyota includes their eBin, which can accommodate charging two phones, along with USB and another wireless connection. It also includes the Qi wireless charging station, although that has garnered some mixed reviews (mostly due to how long it takes to actually charge - people can never be happy, can they?).

On The Road
The Avalon’s ride is smooth and - as you’d expect with a hybrid - quiet. The only ding that I dealt with was a strange rattle coming from the sun roof; I have to believe that’s an issue with this particular review car.

And of course there’s the mileage factor. At about 40 mpg - and with a 17-gallon tank - you’re looking at (potentially) 650-plus miles between fuel-ups. And that’s all of the dashes I want to use in one paragraph.

If you’re in the market for a full-size sedan, but one that will save you lots and lots of money at the pump while still delivering a comfortable/classy ride, the Avalon hybrid is a terrific choice.
Filed Under :
Topics : Environment
People : Avalon Hybrid
by Dom posted Apr 1 2015 10:21AM

A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L'Engle

Reviewed by Dom
 
Here’s what I really like about this month’s book club selection: It takes an old favorite, one that millions of kids (and adults) have loved for more than fifty years, and slaps a fresh coat of paint on it.

The story of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin is beloved, but until recently A Wrinkle in Time had never been illustrated.

Voila! Now there’s a graphic novel of the Newbery-winning tale, and it’s a blast!

Join our three young heroes as they battle the forces of darkness, trying to find Meg and Charles’s father, a government scientist who was working on something called a tesseract. With the help of three kind, supernatural beings (Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which), the adventure mixes science, fantasy, and plenty of food for thought.

There are lots of kids who might’ve missed this story, and the format of a graphic novel provides a fun entry point for many of them. So I’d recommend this for anyone who has already enjoyed the book, and for parents who want to turn their kids on to a classic.

Find the graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time at all of the Tattered Cover Book Stores. Just tell them you’re with Dom’s Book Club, and you’ll get 20% off. Enjoy!

 
by Dom posted Mar 2 2015 10:25AM
Earth (The book)
By Jon Stewart
Reviewed by Dom
 
 
A few years ago we offered a book club selection by Bill Bryson called A Short History of Nearly Everything. It appealed to the nerd in me, but I also appreciated the wry humor tucked within its pages.

Fast forward to this month’s selection, which not only speaks to my inner nerd, but also pokes the wry, sarcastic imp that loves Jon Stewart’s humor.

Earth (the book) is filed under non-fiction, and if there was a subset in The Tattered Cover labeled Snarky, this would be front and center. Jon Stewart and some of his friends on The Daily Show have cooked up another winner. The basic premise is fun: Let’s write a book for any alien visitors who happen to stop by our planet long after we’ve annihilated ourselves.

Essentially, this is a big “We Were Here.”

It’s not a sit-down-and-read-cover-to-cover book, which is fine; we offer plenty of those in our book club. No, this is more of a coffee table book, or, for some people, a bathroom book. Pick it up, browse, land on something interesting, and then laugh.

They’ve broken the book into chapters such as Earth, Life, Society, Culture, Religion, Science, and a few others. Mostly you’ll find it loaded with pictures and illustrations, plus factoids and witty observations which attempt to explain why we – the so-called dominant species on this planet – behave the way we do, and why we make the (often lame) decisions that we do.

Earth (the book) is visually overwhelming. You won’t find blocks of large text, but rather a humorous and intellectually-stimulating collection of images and captions that take glee in poking fun at ourselves.

So just be warned: it’s educational and entertaining, but with a bite. Fans of Jon Stewart will lap it up. And you can find it at all three locations of The Tattered Cover Book Store. Mention Dom’s Book Club and you’ll be able to pick it up for 20% off. Enjoy!

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by Dom in the Morning posted Feb 27 2015 7:30AM
This event is such a blast! Get Your Nerd On Day with the Colorado Avalanche. And tickets are drastically reduced (practically half-price), but you can only get them through this link right here.

The Big Brain Club teams up with the Physics Department at DU for a day of fun, science, and hockey! You'll get in to the Pepsi Center a few hours before the days open to the public, and totally get your nerd on!

Again, here's a link for the tickets. Get 'em before they're gone!
Filed Under :
Location : Colorado
by Dom in the Morning posted Feb 27 2015 6:35AM
Emily sees white and gold. Dom sees blue and black. Jeremy sees a lovely spring look that would pair nicely with a neutral espadrille sandal. Check out this controversial dress, and prepare to have your mind blown. 
by Dom posted Feb 12 2015 4:14PM
For years I've worked with students and schools (mostly middle schools), helping to empower young people to become the best version of themselves. I founded a non-profit organization called The Big Brain Club.

Recently our foundation was featured on Mix 100.3's weekly public affairs program, Colorado Conversations. In this podcast you'll hear my son, Dominic, who runs the foundation as its Executive Director, talking with Scott Nielsen. Scott is the principal at one of our incredible partner schools, Preston Middle School in Fort Collins. It's inspiring to hear what Scott and his team of educators have done to motivate and inspire kids. Preston definitely embodies the spirit of Smart is Cool!

Here's a link to the podcast, where you can find out more about Preston Middle School's spirit of achievement, as well as an inside look at how The Big Brain Club functions. Enjoy!
Filed Under :
Location : Preston
People : DominicScott Nielsen
by Dom posted Feb 3 2015 3:34PM

For the unofficial month of love, I asked Emily to suggest an appropriate book. She's a fan of Bridget Jones, and gave the nod to one of the sequels. Here's her (as usual) charming review.

“Oh, Bridget" . . . Get used to sighing those two words while reading Bridget Jones’ Diary: the Edge of Reason.

I know what you’re thinking: ‘Seen the movie. No need for the book.’ But I'm here to tell you that not reading the second installment of the BJD series would be a tragic injustice. As anyone who has ever read a book then seen the movie knows, the book kicks the movie’s arse. There are so many little quirks and events that you never see in the film, so many beautiful lines of humor and heartbreak. I venture that more than one scene will speak to your soul, and you’ll wish that Bridget was a flesh and blood human you could split a bottle (or three) of wine with.

There are all the usual suspects in BJD: The Edge of Reason: adorable and uptight Mark Darcy, loyal but batty besties Jude and Shazzer, that sinfully delicious cad Daniel Cleaver, and her loony tunes mother, full of mischief and adventure. Highlights of the book, which never made it into the movie, include a hot man from Kenya, death threats, and home improvement woes. (And since - in real life - my boyfriend’s bathroom is currently getting redone, and I must share my bathroom with him, this plot point struck a chord with me. Particularly when Bridget speaks of ‘the honeymoon being over.')

It’s quick, it’s charming, and it’s delightful as hell. Curl up with Bridget Jones’ Diary: The Edge of Reason. And, like most love stories, this book is best devoured on your couch in your comfy pants, with an open heart.

You can find this month's selection, Bridget Jones' Diary: The Edge of Reason at all three Denver locations of The Tattered Cover Book Store. Just mention "Dom's Book Club" and get 20% off this month's book. Enjoy!
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by Dom posted Jan 17 2015 3:05PM
Is it just me, or is TV getting better? And is that a good thing or not?

I wrote a piece about how I went from watching almost NO television, to suddenly having more shows in my Netflix and Amazon Prime queues than I can keep up with.

You might enjoy the post. Here's a link for you to check it out. I'd welcome your comments, too.
 
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