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The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks
The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks
by Amy Stewart
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $9.80
111 used & new from $8.87

3.0 out of 5 stars A mix of all the right stuff, in all the wrong proportions gives this book a bad aftertaste., June 15, 2015
I really wanted to like this book going in. I wanted to read something light with just enough science to be enjoyable, I was looking for a comprehensive history of alcohols, mixed with the science behind making them... and for the most part, it provides this. However, it's not really structured like a readable book, Instead, as others have mentioned, it's more like a reference guide. If you want to look up a certain alcohol and/or plant, I'm sure you can pick this book up and find all kinds of interesting points, but that's really all it is. It's kind of scattered brained, leaning heavily as a bathroom reader, or a drinker's almanac.

This is most notable when she seems to jump from subject to subject. I'll admit that I listened, rather than read this, as an audio book... so I really don't know how it's structured on a page, but I'm imagining it looking like a factbook or almanac rather than a book or novel. It jumps from subject to subject, and I almost can see it being written like a list of interesting facts... rather than a narrative that actually tries to tell a story. Parts constantly get interrupted with random drink recipes, factoids, and side information, which are cool I guess... for a reference book...

The author can be funny, enlightening, and entertaining at times, but can just as often come off a tinge snobbish. She stresses what the "real alcohols are" to advise you to only drink the good stuff. That can be funny and useful, but just as often it kind of puts me off her book. I want to learn about alcohols. I'm assuming the book is there to inspire and immerse you into the world of alcohol, but instead I find myself more often learning about the culture around alcohol mavens, and I find it distasteful. I quickly get a sense with this book was written for alcohol connoisseurs interested in science, rather than scientists interested in alcohol.

So in the end, it's a book that seems to have all the right parts... interesting content, good research, well written... but it gets mixed up in a bad way. Like one of the recipes in this book, if you don't mix things together right, you end up with a bad drink when you're done.


The $1,000 Genome: The Revolution in DNA Sequencing and the New Era of Personalized Medicine
The $1,000 Genome: The Revolution in DNA Sequencing and the New Era of Personalized Medicine
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $17.99

2.0 out of 5 stars A Dry and Disorganized Take on Corporatization of Biology in the Modern Age, May 29, 2015
The $1000 genome follows the story of the rise of personalized genomes in the advent of the completion of the human genome project. The story starts off sounding almost like a infocommercial. The author explores the best and brightest companies as they try to race towards doing cheaper, better, and more accessible genomes. While I've read plenty of books who've had goals, messages, and heavy handed lectures, this is the first time that I ever felt like I was trying to be sold something. For the first half of this book, it felt like he was pedaling wears, and if he wasn't a spokesperson masquerading as impartial observer, I'd eat my hat. The tone eventually changes in the second half of the book, and starts following the criticisms against genome for money and examines the other side of the spectrum.

Regrettably, that's about the only organization this book provides. Besides that strange distinction of weighing all the good in the beginning and all the bad at the end (if you can even read that far), it offers no form of organization. There are chapters, but they don't flow or have any point. The author chooses to leap around from time point to time point, and since we're only talking about a 5 year period of time, it makes it near impossible to follow.

There is no linear thought process to the book. It's just a splattering of everything that went through the authors mind. I'm sure in his brain, he saw a natural progression of reasoning about why he'd start talking about this company, jump to this company from 2 years prior, then move over to this event that happen around the same time, before leaping to a backstory about some guys aunt, but when it hits paper, it just becomes a confusing muddle of stuff.

This causes it to be very difficult to understand the subject of the book. Some companies are using snp genotyping and only looking at variances, some are doing whole genome, some are doing something else. And he tries to lump these companies together, but he's never terribly clear about who is doing what, when. So what you end up with is a hodgepodge of information that doesn't connect. Discussing a company from 2008 who is doing whole genome work and then another company in 2007 doing snp genotyping and honestly I can't draw the comparison when mentioned 200 pages away from each other.

If he had just organized the data in a logical manner, told a story, even just a story per chapter, it would have been something. Instead it felt like a pollack painting. He just chucked stuff at the canvas until he had the equivalent of art... then broke it into chapters because that's what you're supposed to do.

It has one or two okay points, but 100 pages in I was just waiting for the end. Did we even reach a $1000 genome? I can't even answer that question. He mentioned a genome getting down to $990, but then he states that that's just the cost of reagents, and that prices may differ for whole sale or the individual once you include overhead costs. Plus, this $990 genome may just be a SNP genotype looking for certain diseases, not a whole genome. The company that reached $990 is not mentioned in the end, it was mentioned in the beginning, and he doesn't tie this company to the end of the story. In the end, that's what gives this story 2 stars. When you write a book called $1000 genome and can't even answer that question, it has problems.


What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
by Randall Munroe
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.40
152 used & new from $8.48

4.0 out of 5 stars If a theoretical physicist became a Mythbuster, April 11, 2015
This is my first experience with anything Munroe has ever done, so I don't have the rose colored goggles of having become fond of his comics and being eager to read his work. So if there are inside jokes, idioms, and humor that you'd only really get if you "get" Munroe, then I'm not in that crowd. Instead, I stumbled on this book while looking for informative science books to read.

I found the book to be quite enjoyable. It naturally has no real organization. There is no real ending or beginning. Munroe doesn't attempt to tie his online work into a narrative. Instead, it's just a series of random what if questions he has been asked over the last few years followed by the answers he came up with. As I understand, the answers are already online in one form or another, perhaps with a few random tidbits added in. So for free, you could probably scan through Munroe's archives and get the same thing you'd get out of this book.One of the odder things that were never fixed include website links, which terribly date the book. In that way, the book feels like if someone printed out their favorite wikipedia topics and then compiled it into a book, which according to this book, is something that has been done.

Munroe approaches most of the physics questions as a comedian first, and a physicist second. He's very selective about what he "feels like" answering. He includes numerous "weird and worrying" questions where he answers the questions with smart arse remarks. (Many with the same remark, "I need to know by Friday" doesn't get funnier the third time you apply it to a different question). On that note, "citation needed" was funny the first two or three times, but by the eighth or ninth time he recycles that joke, it's kind of annoying. Anyway, the point being, he'll answer some truly strange what if questions, then precede to not answer some perfectly acceptable questions that he deemed "weird", and you never really know which is which or why.

Plus, some questions he'll answer really half arsed, which I translate as days where he really just didn't feel like doing a what if. You'd think if he was publishing a book on the subject, he'd go back and fix up some of those answers, but that's part of what makes it feel like a wikipedia print-out. Some questions will be answered fervently. Some he will skip big parts of. He makes a habit of going off on sometimes amusing tangents that clearly had nothing to do with the questions asked. He also tends to avoid answering questions that he feels can be answered easy with a google search.

In the end, he's to theoretical physicists what the Mythbusters are to the rest of science. It "looks" like science to the untrained eye, but in the end it's mostly just garbledegook with enough pseudo-science thrown in that most of what he says sounds reasonable to most people (even scientists). That's not to say it isn't entertaining, I thought it was quite entertaining, and I reflect that in my four star rating, but it's not much more than that. This isn't a book that will leave you thinking days, or even minutes after finishing it. Like some mentioned, it's a bathroom reader.


Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries
Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries
by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.97
63 used & new from $3.98

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A repetitive story with little structure, but some interesting insights, April 9, 2015
I am a biology pHD and I've always found astronomy and astrophysics to be an interesting subject that I explore for fun. I've been reading a lot of science books lately, and the last few have been physics based. I found this book to be a fairly easy read. It never gets too specific or too difficult to understand for someone who is only brushing the surface of this field. It's definitely a good "introduction" to astrophysics as a concept (although it doesn't give you a feel on what it's like to be an astrophysicist) , so I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to start looking at astrophysics more.

The book itself is an assembly of previous publications, essays, and other pet projects Neil wrote. As a result, the chapters don't really have an overall arching structure or design. Each chapter is a random, self-serving subject, with an ultimate point into and of itself.

This wouldn't be a problem so much if that didn't result in the book needlessly and frequently repeating itself. Not only does NDT feel the need to repeat himself many times with subjects within the same chapter (usually with him stated "And to repeat myself"), but since each chapter was written independent of any other chapter, he will regurgitate explanations he's already given in some cases as many as four times. So similar are some of these sections that I often became confused and convinced that I was on the wrong page and rereading a portion of the book I'd already read.

There for, you'll hear NDT's "mantras" repeated again and again as well, and you'll quickly get a sense of what is important to him and what isn't. This is fine, but if you're like me you'll quickly get a sense that NDT is a tad condescending and bit conceited. One part that comes to mind was when he recited the joke "what is heavier, a ton of feathers or a ton of lead?" He was only 8 or so when he heard this joke, but he felt the need to tell us that he, as a little kid in elementary school, apparently didn't fall for it. So great a physicist in NDT that he figured out the joke upon it's first recitation before he even knew what physics was.

It's little things like this that bugged me throughout the entire book. The book is full of snide comments and condescension sometimes veiled as "jokes" scattered throughout. In fact, of the some 10 books I've read in the last few months, this one probably had me laughing the least, and some of those books were about some pretty heavy topics like cancer. Then, NDT completely jumps the shark near the end of the book when he goes on a tirade about "scientific misfacts". Many of these complaints aren't more than a commentary on how expressions, like "the sun setting in the west" and "north pole" aren't scientifically perfectly accurate. Apparently, since the sun rarely sets exactly in compass west, saying the sun sets in the west is a grievous sin. In these cases, NDT completely fails to realize what generalizations and expressions are. This might be forgivable, if NDT himself wasn't prone to making numerous inaccurate statements himself, such as when he claims sharks "want to eat you" and parasites "drink your fluids". If you're going to be pompous and demand statements be perfectly representative of reality, then you better treat your own writing with the same care.

Of course, the book isn't bad. I was mostly entertained (if not amused) through most of it. Very little of the science it mentions is more/different than what I've already seen in discovery channel documentaries or heard in astronomy 101 back in high school, so I can't say it really gave me insight into anything new. However, it was a nice refresher and made a few insightful or interesting points. I particularly liked his assessment on newspapers declaring "scientists are baffled!" I've never thought of it before, but he's absolutely right. Too much of the public see scientists as bastions of knowledge, but the entire point of science is to find things you are baffled about, and then work on solving them. If you didn't do that, you wouldn't be a scientist.

So, all in all, I enjoyed the book for what it was. It isn't a great science book, but it isn't bad either. That left it with 3 stars for me.


Zizo Alcatel One Touch Evolve 2 4037T UCASE Cover with Kickstand and Screen Installed - Retail Packaging - Black
Zizo Alcatel One Touch Evolve 2 4037T UCASE Cover with Kickstand and Screen Installed - Retail Packaging - Black
Price: $6.00
4 used & new from $3.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The case works for me., April 8, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
For the price and ability of this phone case, I was very satisfied. It looks as pictured, including holes for all the various speakers, cameras, and plugs. It doesn't put an obnoxious flap over the power port and it is as well built as any otterbox. It includes a "hard" screen cover, versus the sticky ones. This may cause the loss of some sensitivity to touch, but I haven't noticed it as a problem. It's a strong case and I feel like my phone is safe and protected in it. Even though my phone was only $40 in the first place, it's still nice to know it's not going to get scrapped up and destroyed in my pocket, or cracked the next time I drop it.


Sunnice® BH-503 sport wireless bluetooth stereo handfree headset headphone music player Premium Sound Super Bass for smartphones iPhone iPad PC Samsung Galaxy Note, Nokia, LG, etc.
Sunnice® BH-503 sport wireless bluetooth stereo handfree headset headphone music player Premium Sound Super Bass for smartphones iPhone iPad PC Samsung Galaxy Note, Nokia, LG, etc.

2.0 out of 5 stars Built like a brick and works like one too, April 8, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've gone through a few Bluetooth headsets over the years, preferring the over the ear models to the in the ear ones. I came to like the Motorola bluetooth headphones , but my second "cheaper" pair from Artic also had some things. I ended up selecting these headphones because they seemed like a mixture of the things I liked about both the Artic and the Motorola. However, they also have certain disadvantages compared to the preceding two.

The first thing to note is that they are surprisingly large. They aren't "bulky" like the Artic, which juts out from your head like an earmuff, but they are very large and heavy. This might mean they are structurally more resistant to breaking. Then again, the more inflexibility might just mean the more likelihood they'll snap. It has large earpieces, thicker than the Motorola but sleeker than the Artic. They aren't headphone you might be embarrassed wearing in public, whereas I could see the Artics being so. The size and ergonomics of these headphones do cause some ear pain with extended use, but I may get used to it over time.

One nice feature of these headphones is they have voice explanations. The previous two headsets I had would give a series of beeps or tunes to indicate connectivity and being on or off. This can be frustrating at times, when you think it's off but it's not, or you think it's low in battery, because you misunderstood the beep noise. These phones are crystal clear, telling you exactly what the headphones are doing. "Headphones on, bluetooth connecting", "Low power" ect... One problem is, this limits the speed they connect. You might find yourself waiting for it to finish talking, where a beep would have just connected you faster.

The two things that drag the score down are the two reasons you'd ever use a bluetooth: the sound and the battery life. The sound that comes out of these headphones is much quieter than either of my previous two headphones. At full volume on both the device and the headphones I only just reach a comfortable noise. On the occasionally where I just want my music blaring, these headphones won't provide it. For my primary use (audio books) it works fine. I'm not a audiophile, so I can't really say any one headphone gives better audio than another. Other than that, they don't have any better or worst connections than either of the other two headphones I've tried. They connect faster than motorola and slower than artic. They sometimes have issues outdoors, but not drastic and there distance can vary.

The second reason comes down to battery life. It probably has the worst battery life of any headset I have ever tried. This comes off of using the Artic, which advertises (and delivers) a 20 hour playback time. It's insane how long they last. I'll go days without charging and I can't tell you the last time they up and died on me. Charging them is also very fast, taking only 30 minutes to an hour. These headphones can't even last 6 hours after a full charge of play time, and the standby isn't much better. Plus they take almost 3 hours to charge. So for every hour you charge them you get around 2 hours of use. That's pathetic...

If you want headphones that look and feel tough. If you're into sports and listen to music or audio while doing your sports, these might work well enough. You can't blame me for not testing their durability, but they haven't broken so far. On the other hand, they suffer heavily in both battery life and volume. If you're worried about being able to hear in 50 years, maybe that's a good thing.

If I had the chance again, I'd probably not buy these and go back to the Artic. The extremely long battery life just trumps the myriad of other issues that Artic has, like using the same button for power as it uses for play, it's flimsiness, and it's bulky design.

edit: After a little while longer using these, I realized the 6 hour battery life was optimistic. Actually doing a test, strait from an overnight charge to my ears lasted less than 3 hour of continuous playback. Maybe the battery in mine is bullocks, but I'm returning it. Three hours of charging for three hours of playback with subpar volume is ridiculous. I took another star off. Worse headphones I've ever bought. I just hope I can return them.


ARCTIC P253 BT - Bluetooth (V3.0+EDR) Stereo Headset with Built in Microphone - Enjoy Wireless Music and Hands Free Calls - 20 h Playback Time / 400 h Standby - Wireless Sport Headphones
ARCTIC P253 BT - Bluetooth (V3.0+EDR) Stereo Headset with Built in Microphone - Enjoy Wireless Music and Hands Free Calls - 20 h Playback Time / 400 h Standby - Wireless Sport Headphones
Offered by ARCTIC direct
Price: $15.99
11 used & new from $12.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Alright Headphones, March 25, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've had a pair of bluetooth headphones I bought before they were cool (and before they were cheap) from motorola. They still work fine and hold a charge, but thanks to an over exuberant toddler, they ripped off all of the foam that protected the earpiece. Suffice it to say I was looking for a new pair of headphones that didn't break the bank, and these were the ones I ended up getting.

They broke within a month, and since they were a Christmas present, it was another month or two from when I bought them, and the company offers no means of exchange. The part that broke was the over the ear loop, which broke off when I tried to pick them up without looking and the ear got caught on a cord.

I file that as half my fault, and half a design flaw, because as others have pointed out, they have a rather large spacing between the over the ear loop and the headpiece. Despite that, I've used gorilla glue and hot glue guns to reapply the headpiece, and I've managed to keep it moderately usable for about 3 months now after refixing it every few weeks. The cords not broken, so honestly it works fine. The sound is good. It uses the larger mini-usb, whereas most of my devices use microusb, which is unfortunate, but not really the headphones fault. What is the headphones fault is it's rather bulky and nonslimlined design.

Compared to my headphones from 5 years ago, these are just big and jut out (isn't technology supposed to improve, not take a step back). Don't expect to look fashionable in these. They pop out as bad as old style earmuffs. It folds, which my old one didn't do, which is a blessing and curse. It makes it feel flimsier, but it also makes it less like to break or snap, since everything is on hinges and has a little leeway.

The audio works fine, and for a while I used Voip to make phone calls and I was told it's an improvement over the onboard audio of my tablet. It connects to my tablet far more reliably, and far quicker than my old headphones. It also doesn't involve putting the headphones into "connect mode" like my old one does, which is much appreciated. I'm not sure about all bluetooth devices, but it posses no memory, so once you connect it to one device, and then another, you'll need to reconnect it to the first device again if you want to go back. (versus just keeping bluetooth off on whatever device you don't want it to connect to)

It's charge is amazing. It'll go for days and even weeks without the need for a charge. My old one is lucky to last a full 8 hours. This one easily lasts 10-20 hours of continuous use at least. It's not as "loud" as my old headphones, but it's usually loud enough that I don't need to go to max volume (although pretty close depending on my mood).

The only other problem I have with it is that it makes the "play" button the same as the power button, which is represented by a picture of phone, because there is no logic in the world. The problem with making the play button and power button the same, but you needing to hold the power button for 2-3 second to turn off should be an obvious one. I'll often think I turned the device off only to find out a just paused something. Then I go do something else and find out my tablet has no sound and I left my headphones three rooms over. It's not a big problem, but it probably hits me a lot. It also probably wears on that battery quite excessively when I found out what I thought was a turned off headphone is really just been sitting on idle for the last 18 hours.

In Conclusion:

So, I take the good with the bad. It broke early on, which I sum up more to bad luck. It's not exactly the most slimeline (or the most comfortable) of headsets. It uses the growing obsolete miniusb to charge, is bulky, and makes some weird decisions involving the inclusion of a power button. However, it's probably the cheapest bluetooth headset, it has good audio function without an obnoxious microphone piece, and the battery life is more than sufficient. The later positives seem to outweigh the negatives (what do you expect for under $20), so 4 stars.


Hospitology Heavenly Microfiber Goose Down Alternative Overstuffed Mattress Pad/Topper, 60-Inch by 80-Inch, Queen
Hospitology Heavenly Microfiber Goose Down Alternative Overstuffed Mattress Pad/Topper, 60-Inch by 80-Inch, Queen
Offered by Hospitology
Price: $105.99
2 used & new from $38.96

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It beats nothing., March 14, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
About 5 years ago, I bought a Serta mattress. The first night I slept in it I felt so comfortable that I did not want to get out of bed the next morning. Over the course of those 5 years, the mattress has depressed to probably half it's original thickness, and stopped being comfortable. Rather than spending $600 on a new one, I instead started searching for toppers. I eventually settled on a Serta 3' memory foam topper as it was on sale.

Now, memory foam isn't like normal beds. It feels completely different, in some ways it made the bed more form fitting, but it didn't leave me feeling comfortable. So I thought if I could add another inch of normal fluff or down alternative, the combined efforts of the two may give something that resembled the comfort I was looking for.

It kind of works. Surprisingly, placing this cover over the memory foam topper makes the bed feel like a bed again. Even with 3 inches of memory foam under it, this mattress pad effectively removes that "sinking in" feeling I get with memory foam. On the other hand, it almost makes the bed feel firmer as result, since it seems to almost cancel any effect the memory foam was actually having.

Overall, it's not worst than it was before. It's certainly not as good as when I first bought the mattress, and I have to assume people who claim it's like sleeping on a cloud are people used to sleeping on a rock. It's a little bit of an improvement over the bed without anything, but that's the best I can claim for it. I honestly have no clue if the 3 inches of memory foam are even doing anything anymore, I can't even feel it through this topper.

The two major pluses for this is that it's a great price at 40-some dollars (the others I've seen go up to $80 or more) and it fits a pretty thick bed, since it fits mine fine with the 3' topper without problem. So if you're looking for a slight improvement, this will add about an inch of down alternative. If you want an idea of how that will feel, find a fluffy comforter, place it over the bed and lie on it, it'll feel like that, but it'll stay in place better for the most part.

So it's not great, it's not bad, I give it 3 stars. Maybe 4 stars if you concentrate on the pricetag more than the comfort.


MAPS.ME - Offline Maps
MAPS.ME - Offline Maps
Price: $0.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars, February 20, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: MAPS.ME - Offline Maps (App)
Very glitchy and only able to navigate half the time.


Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10" - Drop Tech - Ruggedized Case  - Black
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10" - Drop Tech - Ruggedized Case - Black
Offered by Gumdrop Cases
Price: $59.95
9 used & new from $29.98

3.0 out of 5 stars Alright, but very pricey., August 6, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The gumdrop samsung tab 3 case is sufficient. For whatever reason, at the time of purchase, I wasn't able to get an otterbox. They simply didn't make a 10 inch otter box and I found that exceptionally frustrating. Therefore, I looked for an adequate replacement, and that's where this one comes along.

The first thing to note is that the gumdrop is a very solid and sturdy case. It has a hard component and a soft rubber component and both are well built and very sturdy. This will keep your tablet very safe. The hard cover snaps onto the front of the tablet (it is perfectly molded to snap on, so I find it very unlikely there is much in the ways of universal fitting here) and then the soft rubber fits around the back.

The first unfortunate thing about the gumdrop is that there is no stand or even an opportunity for a stand. The awkward ruffled effect and the thickness of this case makes 99% of stands you could buy useless. As of right now, I still haven't found one that works.

The second issue with the tablet comes architecturally. They make a few design decisions that don't make a whole lot of sense. For example, they have holes on the sides for the speakers... but don't make them large enough to open the entire speaker, partially blocking them. They leave extra space so that the word "samsung" isn't obscured... but they don't put a hole for the microphone, so that gets covered up. This doesn't make the microphone useless... but I don't know what the effect of plastic over it leaves on the sound. They do leave a hole for the infrared port though, which was nice to see since my last one did not.

It comes with a "hard" style cover for the screen... so while there is no lid like the defender series otter box to prevent any impact damage, there is at least protection from scratches. It's the thicker style screens that do not rest against the plastic with static clean and those stupid bubbles... so you don't need to worry about the application there. However, due to its thickness... it does decrease the sensitivity of the screen, forcing me to push a lot harder than I'd like sometimes to get it to register my selections.

So, it's a good option if you can't get an otterbox. At $70, its not worth it. Would I buy it again if I had to? Probably, because having my $300 electronic protected is important. But you are paying 1/4 the cost of your electronic just to protect it, and that's kind of bull. If it was perfect, and didn't have any complaints I mentioned... I'd consider it worth the entry price, but only just. Either way, with the tab 4 out the price will drop a bit. Just know it is not the perfect case.


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