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Mark "Technology, Music and Movies" RSS Feed (East Coast)
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (#1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)    (2008 HOLIDAY TEAM)   

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Good Sense Tussin DM Cough and Chest Congestion , 8 Fluid Ounce
Good Sense Tussin DM Cough and Chest Congestion , 8 Fluid Ounce
Price: $7.00
3 used & new from $0.75

4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Value, June 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Good Sense Tussin DM Cough and Chest Congestion medicine provides many of the same benefits of brand name cough syrups for a much better value. In fact, with Subscribe and Save this can be noticeably less than some generic brands sold in your local pharmacy. I have used other Good Sense products and have generally not had any problems with this brand.

The active ingredients are the same as those found in many similar products. Each 2 tsp. contains 20 milligrams of dextromethorphan and 200 milligrams of guaifenesin. There are also many standard inactive ingredients included for appearance and taste, including high fructose corn syrup (which is in everything, yet some people still fight to avoid it), some preservatives, food coloring and menthol.

In terms of taste it is similar to other cough medicines. While not tasty it is easy enough to take.

I will update this later when I have a more severe cough against which to test the product's effectiveness.


The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
by Steven Kotler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.72
69 used & new from $11.18

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Rise Of Superman – A Powerful Gem For The Right Reader, April 16, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Rise Of Superman is not like any “self-help” book you have ever read. I am generally wary of that genre of books, so I understand the skepticism. But you must actually read this book cover to cover to see how it is different. You cannot “skim” or “skip ahead” looking for the good stuff. This book mixes research, human interest stories and thought provoking questions. And it has the potential to lead to groundbreaking performance improvements.

THE HUMAN INTEREST STORIES BREATH LIFE INTO THE TOPIC

Many of the same types of critiques made about this book have been leveled to an even greater degree against Csikszentmihalyi’s seminal work, Flow. While that book is more of an attempt at mass marketing of scholarly work, this book bridges the gap between research and real world human interest stories. Maybe there are a group of people out there that just have no interest in learning about the amazing things that other people have done. But they could literally fill several seasons of the HBO “Real Sports” series presenting the stories contained within this book. And they are all relevant to the core thesis of the book in some way. Certainly there is some “fluff” as with any human interest story. But Kotler connects the dots.

THE AUTHOR HAS A TALENT FOR DESCRIBING FRINGE EXPERIENCES

How many people have personally surfed a 70 foot wave? How many have skydived to earth from outer space? The author has a skill for describing these experiences in a way that the average reader can visualize them. I’m sure that some readers will wish they had had more experience with these kinds of extreme sports. But I was left in awe of the author’s ability to communicate these kinds of “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences. This book is not just for the people who are adventure sports enthusiasts. This book is really for the rest of us, so that we can visualize these feats that few will ever achieve.

THE RESEARCH INTO FLOW DID NOT END WITH THE 1990 BOOK

It is dismissive to imply that all the insights contained within this book are taken directly from Flow. There are hundreds of references in this book, many of them based on research in the field. In looking into these references, a pattern emerges. Flow wasn’t the end of the topic, it was the beginning. Most of the research cited was conducted after the 1990 book. And many of the insights of those studies went further than the original book.

THIS BOOK BREAKS DOWN FLOW IN DETAIL

Some commentators may not have made it far enough through the book to get to the good stuff. The author does more than just tell stories about athletes in states of flow. He breaks down the stages of flow, the precursors to getting into flow, and much more. He contrasts the inner triggers against the external triggers of flow, discussing what additional triggers have been identified since Csikszentmihalyi’s research. And he even gives examples of how flow states can be achieved by people not putting their lives at risk.

In addition, the author discusses the “dark side” of flow, taking a “yin-yang” approach. He writes, “How many self-help books have been written about living with passion & purpose (i.e., traveling the flow path); yet how few actually mention the dangers involved.” Indeed this book does discuss those things. While there is a lot of research to be done in this area, the author hints at various risks, including addictive, compulsive and self-destructive behaviors.

CONNECTING THIS TO THE BUSINESS WORLD

The author does make some tenuous connections to the business world, attempting to show the applicability of what we can learn from these athletes. Some of the examples are spot on. But he does not provide a specific roadmap to “how” and “what” is necessary to promote flow in a specific business environment. There is some validity to pointing out that this aspect could be strengthened. But the author asks the questions that should prompt business people to seek out those answers for themselves. He never claims to provide a cookbook, and the expectations of such a treatment are unrealistic. The central quality of flow is that it is the result of our neurochemistry, which is still cutting edge science.

CONCLUSION

This is an impressive work that was clearly well researched and thought out. The author points out that flow is most easily achieved by those who believe in the ability of anybody to learn and achieve excellence. Those who believe they are limited by their genetics or circumstances are less likely to pursue the constant striving, and thus obtain the triggers, necessary for flow. For those who believe in nurture over nature, I highly recommend this book.

Enjoy.


Aroma AWK-109B Electric Kettle
Aroma AWK-109B Electric Kettle
Price: $25.41

3.0 out of 5 stars Aroma 109B Electric Kettle – Good Mix Of Features, Decent Value, February 8, 2014
The Aroma 109B Electric Kettle has many of the features of premium electric water kettles. But it has the fit and finish of a budget kettle. And while it does provide a decent value, it does have some limitations. So this is not going to be the best fit for everybody. This will be perfect for those who need the extra capacity of this model without the expense of stainless steel and glass alternatives. But for those who demand top performance or who are looking for a smaller capacity unit that is more portable, there are several alternatives with more versatility than this model.

Also note: This is an update to a model that has been sold under several different brand names. It had a known issue of shorting out electrically and boiling dry, a failure of the auto-shut-off that creates a fire hazard. Luckily so far my unit has not had any such problems, so maybe they have fixed that problem.

PROS:
++ 1.5 liter / 6 cup capacity is comparable to much more expensive metal or glass alternatives (most plastic models have a much smaller capacity)
++ Cordless kettle / corded base is more convenient and also more typical of more expensive alternatives
++ Relatively quick boiling speed when compared to budget models
++ Filter allows for clean pours without hard water deposits (after extended use)
++ Angled spout makes for easy pouring
++ Simple one-touch switch to boil, with a convenient automatic shut-off
++ Limited one-year warranty

CONS:
-- Plastic seems less thick / durable than other budget alternatives like the Proctor Silex
-- Unit is also too large for portable use when compared to the Proctor Silex
-- While the 1500 watts does make it heat water faster, it also uses more electricity than 1000 watt alternatives
-- Heating element is a coil, which is not really a “concealed heating element” as advertised; the Breville has a truly concealed heating element in the bottom
-- Not a good option for heating small amounts of water as a result; 2 cups is the minimum amount required to cover the coil
-- Once it boils, it takes a while for the automatic shut-off to kick on; this is not a problem for me, but some people may not like it
-- The lid does not easily close fully
-- The on / off switch is not very ergonomic (you must pull it up to turn it on)
-- No information provided on BPA / chemical content of plastic body
-- Power cord does not cleanly fit through the channel in the base

CONCLUSION

This is a decent home unit for those on a budget. For anybody who wants a budget unit for portable use, the Proctor Silex is still best, with the newer Bodum also deserving consideration. But for anybody looking for a better home unit, the Breville is definitely superior and it comes at a premium for that reason. Good luck choosing the one that is best for you.

Enjoy!


SKLZ Kool 'N Fit Sport Performance Spray
SKLZ Kool 'N Fit Sport Performance Spray
Price: $9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars SKLZ Performance Spray - Not A Believer, January 26, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
SKLZ Kool 'N Fit Sport Performance Spray is advertised to help you have a faster warm up, better work out and a faster recovery afterwards. This product provides no real information on how it is supposed to deliver on those promises.

The menthol and camphor in the ingredients are bound to produce a pleasant sensation. And if the odor is similar to Vicks Vapor Rub, it's because the active ingredients are so similar. I know nothing about the effects of juniper berry and peppermint oils, other than the additional aromatic qualities.

But will this actually help you perform? I doubt it. And I have no clue how it's supposed to speed up your warm up or aid in your muscle recovery.

CONCLUSION

This may have some real benefits, but I noticed no benefits during or after my workout. I will believe it when I see an actual study supporting this product's effectiveness. On the other hand, the product does not appear to be able to do any real harm. And you may like the odor and sensation it provides.


One Sweet Quarrel (Nancy Pearl's Book Lust Rediscoveries)
One Sweet Quarrel (Nancy Pearl's Book Lust Rediscoveries)
Price: $3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars One Sweet Quarrel – A Good Story Bookended By A Slow Start And A Disappointing End, December 7, 2013
One Sweet Quarrel is a novel ranges from very good to underwhelming. It is a disappointment in so much as Deidre McNamer is clearly accomplished at the craft of writing. I do not use those words lightly. But ultimately, what could have been a great book is derailed by some of the author’s creative decisions.

This novel has a very slow start. That may be part of the reason why it initially alienates so many readers. Yet there are reasons why the writer may have chosen to build her story that way, to show the mundane lives these people led before each of them finally had a shot at their dreams. And by the time I was three quarters through the book, I was prepared to shower it with glowing praise.

Yet for very different reasons, I think this book largely represents a missed opportunity. The last quarter of the book feels underwhelming. Perhaps the writer has done that to communicate how underwhelming life can be. Yet if that was a conscious decision, it is one that has left this reader feeling very unsatisfied.

The author also chose to explore many tangential characters and their lives. In and of itself that need not have been a flaw. But it was the way those characters and storylines were explored that was flawed. In many cases it seems to come at the worst possible time. The final letter from Carlton is a case in point. While so many questions about these characters remained unanswered, reading Carlton’s banal discussion of insurance feels like filler at best.

Despite these drawbacks, I am glad to have read this book. I wish there was more time given to the actual boxing match and the immediate time period leading up to it. And in that sense, I think the author could have strengthened the plot structure by creating more of a climax around the story’s central plot point.

CONCLUSION

There are not many books of historical fiction that I know of that center on sporting events, much less boxing. And for those drawn to this story for that reason, they are bound to be disappointed. What this book does succeed in showing is the author’s keen understanding of human nature and the fundamental lack of fairness in life. But the central plot point is little more than wall paper for this story. And in that sense, it’s a missed opportunity.


Lonely Planet Discover Germany (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Discover Germany (Travel Guide)
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.66
67 used & new from $10.93

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lonely Planet's Discover Germany - A Great Guide Book, September 19, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Lonely Planet Discover Germany (Full Color Travel Guide) is a great new guidebook from Lonely Planet. It is written in a direct style. It is organized in sections to cover different regions of the country, with sub-sections on specific cities and landmarks. And each section includes high level maps and quality photographs to bring the content to life.

It's hard to use a lot of guide books while travelling. Most of the ones that are comprehensive are a little too large and unwieldy. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, many of the more concise guide books have great color photos but don't give you nearly enough information for your trip. This book is kind of a good balance between those two extremes. It is packed with details and tons of high quality photographs, but it is edited down enough to make each section easy to use.

As an added bonus, a more detailed fold out map of Berlin is included in the back. For those who plan to make Berlin the center-point of their trip, this will come in handy.

CONCLUSION

This is a very useful guide book that is well thought out and full of good information. It brings to light parts of the country that most Americans rarely see, allowing you to prepare for your trip regardless of how far off the beaten path you want to go. And while it is not thin, it is a good size to easily fit in most purses and travel bags. Recommended.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 30, 2013 10:41 PM PDT


Infinite Products VectorGuard Screen Protector Film for iPad mini - 2 Pack (IP00697_F)
Infinite Products VectorGuard Screen Protector Film for iPad mini - 2 Pack (IP00697_F)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Infinite Products VectorGuard Screen Protector for iPad Mini - Functional But Costly, September 18, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Infinite Products VectorGuard Screen Protector Film for iPad Mini - 2 Pack (IP00697_F) is a functional product. Like most screen protectors, it comes at a premium. It gives your device basic screen protection but the durability could be better. It is similar in thickness to the Infinite Products PhotonShield Anti-Glare and Anti-Fingerprint Screen Protector Film for iPad Mini - 2 Pack (IP00701_F) but does not have the anti-glare properties.

PROS:
++ Custom designed with cutouts for the Apple iPad Mini
++ Basic screen protection with maximum clarity
++ Does not interfere with the device's touch screen
++ Includes a cleaning cloth and a small applicator card
++ Includes 2 screen protectors so you have a backup
++ Online installation videos are provided at "screenprotector dot TV"

CONS:
-- Plastic surface seems easily scratched by the applicator card (cover it with the cleaning cloth when smoothing out the surface)
-- Applicator card is small, less effective than a credit card for smoothing bubbles
-- More costly than other screen protectors
-- No warranty information is provided

CONCLUSION

This product provides basic screen protection without glare reduction. It comes at a premium but it's worth considering.


Battleship: A Daring Heiress, a Teenage Jockey, and America's Horse
Battleship: A Daring Heiress, a Teenage Jockey, and America's Horse
by Dorothy Ours
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.53
41 used & new from $4.20

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Battleship - A Well-Researched, Inspirational Slice Of History, September 18, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Battleship: A Daring Heiress, A Teenage Jockey, and America's Horse is not just the story of a famous race horse. It is also the story of America, the UK and the world of horse racing at a pivotal time in history. It's the story of a young rider driven by his father's shadow. And it's the story about a young DuPont heiress, and how she bucked convention to make a name for herself in a male dominated world.

All of the intersecting threads make this a very ambitious book. The result is that the book often feels very dense. The author is constantly trying to put things in context, referring to related aspects of the story in asides and tangents. She weaves a lovely tapestry that does engage the reader. But this is not a quick or easy read.

The extensive research that went into this book is evident even from early on. And the deeper you get into this story, the more astounding it becomes. It's amazing that she was able to do the research to resurrect so many of the facts of this story. And her writing style brings them to life, reading in many places like more of an epic novel than a book of history.

CONCLUSION

This book is part epic and part history. While it is clearly very well researched and densely layered with story lines, it is as a consequence sometimes overwhelming. But for those who take the time to work through and digest the rich story lines, this book will pay many dividends. I enjoyed reading it and I hope you do too.


The Sixth Station
The Sixth Station
by Linda Stasi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.29
134 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Sixth Station - Interesting Concept, But Flawed Execution, September 18, 2013
This review is from: The Sixth Station (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Sixth Station has been compared to the books of Dan Brown, but it can only be compared to them superficially. The central ideas behind this story are related to those of Dan Brown's books. There are a good number of conspiracy theories wrapped around religious and historical back-stories. The author relied on her journalism background in crafting her central character, which initially provides the hope of a different twist to the Dan Brown formula.

But the execution of this book is flawed. The protagonist is snarky and judgmental, not qualities I would generally associate with journalists. The characters are cookie cutter at best, with an emphasis on the superficial. And since the story is told through the lens of this protagonist, we get the benefit of her snarky comments about every aspect of this story.

But perhaps the most annoying thing about this story was that the author constantly over-uses foreshadowing and innuendo. She does not trust the reader's intelligence, and when she tries to plant any kind of clue to how the story will develop, she throws in some language that amounts to a giant sign that reads "clue here!" And yet we never really get the pay-off that she promises us.

This book still manages to provide some guilty pleasure, and despite the very annoying narration I found myself drawn in. I wanted to see how the author developed the plot line. Sad to say it, the good concepts that underlie this story were largely undermined by poor pacing. There is a lot of waste here that could have been edited out. Even for a story that fits squarely in the realm of the implausible, most of the twists are predictable.

CONCLUSION

This book is largely a disappointment. Yet despite the flaws, it does have a quality that kept me reading. This might appeal to some readers who are looking for light fare, yet such a controversial and heady topic seems out of place with a "fun read." The underlying questions posed by the book largely remain unanswered at the end. Considering how many cookie cutter elements are used to piece this story together, that is perhaps the most disappointing thing of all.


Infinite Products PhotonShield Anti-Glare and Anti-Fingerprint Screen Protector Film for iPad mini - 2 Pack (IP00701_F)
Infinite Products PhotonShield Anti-Glare and Anti-Fingerprint Screen Protector Film for iPad mini - 2 Pack (IP00701_F)
Price: $20.13

3.0 out of 5 stars Infinite Products Anti-Glare Screen Protector for iPad Mini - Tough Install, Marginal Value, September 18, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Infinite Products PhotonShield Anti-Glare and Anti-Fingerprint Screen Protector Film for iPad Mini - 2 Pack (IP00701_F) for the iPad Mini is a functional product. But like most screen protectors, this one comes at a premium. It gives your device basic screen protection with diminished glare, and it also protects against fingerprints and smudges. All anti-glare protectors slightly diminish clarity. But the real downside is that despite the premium, this protector is difficult to install without bubbles. The included applicator card is small and may actually scratch the protector if you don't cover it with a cloth. So the durability could definitely be better.

PROS:
++ Custom designed with cutouts for the Apple iPad Mini
++ Glare reduction helps in indirect sunlight
++ Basic screen protection, with smudge and fingerprint resistance
++ Does not interfere with the device's touch screen
++ Includes a cleaning cloth and a small applicator card
++ Includes 2 screen protectors so you have a backup
++ Online installation videos are provided at "screenprotector dot TV"

CONS:
-- Plastic surface seems easily scratched by the applicator card (cover it with the cleaning cloth when smoothing out the surface)
-- Applicator card is small, less effective than a credit card for smoothing bubbles
-- Screen protector slightly lessens screen clarity
-- More costly than other screen protectors
-- Not enough glare reduction for reading in direct sunlight
-- No warranty information is provided

CONCLUSION

This screen protector provides some glare reduction, scratch resistance and fingerprint resistance. But it comes at a premium. It's worth considering but is not a clear cut recommendation.

Enjoy.


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