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Benjamin Lukoff "Benjamin Lukoff" RSS Feed (Seattle)
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Safety 1st Secure Support Infant Bath Cradle, White
Safety 1st Secure Support Infant Bath Cradle, White
Price: $17.94
3 used & new from $17.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Simple, inexpensive...great!, September 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Just gave our daughter her first bath in this. Fit just right in our kitchen sink, and though she didn't particularly enjoy the bath it was more that she was cold; when we had a warm washcloth covering her she was just fine in this reclining position, which made it easier to get her clean and harder for her to flop around. No frills to this thing--no vibrating, no folding up--but as a basic infant bath I don't see how it could be improved on much.


Nutiva O'Coconut Lightly Sweetened Coconut Treat, Classic, 24 Count
Nutiva O'Coconut Lightly Sweetened Coconut Treat, Classic, 24 Count
Offered by netMart
Price: $23.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Yum, September 26, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Quite good. Minimal ingredients and only a little bit of sweetening, letting the coconut flavor carry the snack, which is how it should be. Nice small size, so it's only 60 calories a serving (and there's only one serving per pack). A seasonal thought: these would actually make really good Halloween treats! (I know some people don't like coconut, but that's what trading is for.)


Nature Babycare Eco-Sensitive Wipes, 672 Count
Nature Babycare Eco-Sensitive Wipes, 672 Count
Price: $40.55
3 used & new from $38.18

4.0 out of 5 stars Baby loves them — I really like them, but am not a huge fan of the packaging, September 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
We just had our daughter a little over a week ago. At the hospital, they had us use what were essentially moistened paper towels (thick ones), and she really didn't like those very much. (Part of that, I'm sure, was that in the first couple of days you have to do quite a bit more cleaning than after the meconium has all passed through.) When we got home, though, we thought we'd start using these, and though she still doesn't like having her diaper changed, she seems to tolerate these a lot more. So I like these for that reason. Not sure what the people who have posted about a chloriney smell are talking about — these don't have much of a smell at all, and I like the fact that the ingredients are minimal.

The one thing I don't like, and I'm not sure if this is different when it comes to the retail version as opposed to what I was sent via Vine, is that the packages aren't resealable. This means I have to load up a separate container with the wipes and tape the package shut — or get a bigger container. It would be nice if at least one container came with these, and then it could be refilled. But that's my only complaint. Otherwise these are wonderful.


OXO Good Grips Butter Dish, Stainless Steel/Clear
OXO Good Grips Butter Dish, Stainless Steel/Clear
Price: $17.99
4 used & new from $17.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, solid dish, September 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a stylish, functional butter dish. The steel and rubber go well together and ensure it won't slip on the counter. I do wonder how the lid will hold up. It's not weak, by any means — in fact I accidentally stepped on this in the package (it was left in front of my door) and it easily held up — but since it's plastic, not glass, I wonder if it will dull or scratch. But, then again — it's a butter dish. It can be replaced :) And as it is, it looks great.


Now Designs Symmetry Teatowel, London Grey, Set of 2
Now Designs Symmetry Teatowel, London Grey, Set of 2
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Gets the job done, September 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These are large and robust while remaining stylish and attractive. I've been very happy with them so far. If I were to buy more, I'd probably go for one of the more colorful versions… this one's almost too understated. But when you get down to it, these are there to do a job, and they perform admirably.


D'Addario NS Micro Universal Tuner
D'Addario NS Micro Universal Tuner
Price: $16.77
13 used & new from $10.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad especially on sale, August 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This really is "micro." I was surprised at how small it was when I opened the package. I must admit I was a bit skeptical, but I was proved wrong. This doesn't tune to particular notes, but rather tells you if what you're playing is flat or sharp based on the pitch standard you set. I attached it to my out-of-tune guitar, tuned it just using this small device, and prepared for cacophony when I played an E, but in fact it sounded great. Glad to have it! (I'm not sure yet about the visual metronome, though, but I suppose it's nice to have.)


Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family
Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family
by Susan Katz Miller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.90
57 used & new from $11.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, August 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
To be fair to the author, she says at the outset this book will concentrate mainly on Jewish-Christian interfaith families, both because that's what she's most familiar with and because they constituted the first major wave of such marriages. (I have a feeling there are more of these as far as sheer numbers go, as well). And this book is about faith and religion (though some of the people that are written about are agnostic or atheist, and many don't literally believe in God).

Of course, for someone like me, an agnostic raised without religion by a Jewish father and a Confucian mother (we celebrated Hanukkah and Korean New Year as far as cultural/religious holidays went, and that was it), the stories told here are heartening but don't quite apply. This book's primary audience, other than those interested in interfaith as a phenomenon, really is going to be Christians and Jews who are married to each other, are interested in raising their children with some sort of religious tradition, but feel uncomfortable choosing one or the other, don't want to go to a Unitarian Universalist or similar congregation (though, incidentally, the UU's Beacon Press is the publisher of this book), and would like to be around others in similar situations.

I'm very glad to see it and I'd love to see something similar someday for people in my situation. Judaism, after all, isn't just a religion, nor is it (obviously) just an ethnicity... it's an ethnoreligious group, so even though I don't consider myself a Jew in terms of what religion I practice (since I practice none) I do in terms of ethnicity, and I still have a greater affinity for Jewish ritual and scripture than Muslim or Christian, say. (As Confucianism, like Buddhism, is really a tradition and not a religion [or at least doesn't HAVE to be a religion] it would be possible to be a religious Jew and a Confucian... the book notes this, using Buddhism instead).

The thing I like most about this book is its proclamation and demonstration that you CAN "be both." You don't have to choose one or the other part of your heritage, whether it be religious, racial, or otherwise. You can be both. Many members of the groups you belong to who belong to that group only may not accept this, but our numbers are growing.


The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection
The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection
by Michael Harris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.04
58 used & new from $11.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not groundbreaking, but still interesting, and thought-provoking, August 2, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It was these lines in the book's description that caught my attention: "But those of us who have lived both with and without the crowded connectivity of online life have a rare opportunity. We can still recognize the difference between Before and After."

Yes — we're the bridge generation, I thought. We grew up with rotary phones and manual typewriters and now have smartphones that do the job of both and more besides. It struck me that Harris is actually younger than I am (I was born in 1975; I deduced from his passage about remembering being nine and Tim Berners-Lee beginning work on what would become the World Wide Web that he was born around 1980) — and that he extended the period during which you could have been born and still experienced this as a transition all the way to 1985. (This makes me feel older than I really am! I suppose the difference is the that the younger folks would say "pushbutton phones" or "cordless phones" rather than rotary, and "electric typewriters" or, more likely, something like "IBM PCs" or "Apple IIs," for manual typewriters.)

Later in the book he relates how Roger Ebert found it increasingly difficult as he got older to read the Victorian novels he used to enjoy when he was younger, and how he himself was struggling to make it through War and Peace. (I still haven't gotten through the copy of Bleak House I bought many years ago.) Ironically, I was myself having trouble being captivated by this book. It's not bad, by any means — Harris is a good writers, has some good insights, and interviews some interesting people. But I think it's too general for my tastes. A lot of what he says has been said before. And, contrary to the title, there is no prescription for the loss of absence. No real one, anyway. It's more a slightly hopeful lament.

I wanted to note a few things in particular. When it comes to the democratization of opinion, he quotes form In Defence of Elitism, On Bullshit, and The Cult of the Amateur. Of course he doesn't believe that no one who doesn't have an institutional imprimatur has a valid opinion — he himself admits that he had no credentials when he began writing cultural reviews for a national Canadian newspaper... but he does note that those who did use to make up part of the elite feel particularly threatened... when it's their own field. (Otherwise, they're more than happy to see the others be democratized.) But honestly: yes, some cultural critics of the past, and others whose opinions we read, deserved their positions. Others simply had them. Perhaps the fact that The New York Times thinks you're worthy to write for them does mean your opinion is more worth listening to than if you're simply Joe Q. Public. Perhaps not, though, and as you go down the chain, getting closer and closer to community institutions, you find yourself wondering if it means anything at all or if it's simply a means of perpetuating the establishment.

I myself had no credentials to be writing book or music reviews when I was hired by Amazon.com a decade ago. The fact that I worked for Amazon made it possible for me to have my short reviews read by thousands of people (whether or not those people liked my reviews or if they influenced them in any way is another question) — but it didn't change who I was; I was originally hired for my copyediting ability, anyway, not my music criticism; and as a music editor I was able to have at least one very good friend of mine write some reviews for us — he had no credentials, either, but he knew his music and was an excellent writer. It was mere chance that he or I had the opportunity to write.

Anyway, Harris does get to the point which I always try to make when people decry the democratization of culture and the opening of access to publishing to the masses: "There has aways been an abundance of BS. But never before have so many been implicated in the BS rigmarole that is public conversation." Exactly. Whenever I hear people saying that the English language is degenerating, I point out that people have never written at a uniform literary standard. People are as good or as bad as they ever were — the difference is that now it's a lot easier to find unedited prose, and it's a lot easier for your unedited prose to find wide distribution. So, what do we want to do — impose censorship? Those who used to read The New York Times and the London Review of Books and the like will still do so. Those who didn't still won't.

He also notes, in the chapter on memory, that we've been using memory aids for thousands of years. We may think we're losing something fundamental by relying on the Internet to tell us certain things, but they said the same thing when writing overtook speech, or printing overtook manuscripts. "The Internet is only one example of our dog-eared recall system."

"I'd like to know for myself when La Bohème was composed and what Jung actually said about dreams and where exactly Uzbekistan might be," he writes. Well, if you're really interested in those subjects, you will know. I don't know the first two, but isn't it great I can get a rudimentary idea without having to leave my chair? As for Uzbekistan, I am interested in political geography, so I do know where it's located. If I really need to get specific, though, I'll need a map — whether or not it's hand-drawn, printed, a globe, or online, it's still a memory aid — and you can do so many things with online cartography it isn't even funny. (I'm still a physical maps aficionado, though… I think in this, as in most things, there's room for both.) I know things about the fields I'm interested in, and the Internet makes it possible for me to learn about things I might want to know a little about but which aren't a passion. I don't think it has to be knowing a lot about a little or a little about a lot; I think you can still do both. (You can certainly know little about little; knowing a lot about a lot is not something that most people can achieve, with or without technology.)

Technology is about explicitness, he quotes Lyman Bryson as saying in a subsequent chapter on Internet dating — "they focus our attention on one cramped view of things," especially if they're online. I think they can do that, but they don't necessarily have to. Technology makes it easier for us to be lazy, but it doesn't force us to be.

Elsewhere, and here is where I wish I had the ability to do a full-text search of this physical book, he mentions the fact that (and I can't remember if this was his idea or someone else's) the real transition to the future might actually have taken place in the mid 1800s, not in the last decade or so. This is worth thinking about. Each generation — unless it's a particularly boring 20 years, and I can't think of one of those — must think the changes it's seen have been the most fundamental ones yet. Each generation is probably wrong. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose — toward the end of the book he notes that "the steam-powered locomotive (which arrived at the front end of the 19th century) may have been a sign of that dangerous fate ["the fate that never turns aside"] for Thoreau, but only a few generations later, train travel had already become a symbol of an idyllic, slower past."

Ultimately, I agree with Harris — we don't want to go backwards technologically, but to take advantage of the good things it brings us and give ourselves a break once in a while so we can remember we really are still creatures of flesh and blood and not of silicon and plastic. He seems more pessimistic about the future effects of technology than I do, which I again find interesting, since he's younger than me, but I honestly think that what technology is doing is revealing our true natures to ourselves at least as much as it's changing us. That BS has always been there — it's just far, far easier, to find.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 4, 2014 9:03 AM PDT


How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World
How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World
by Steven Johnson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.98
35 used & new from $17.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost too far-ranging but fascinating nevertheless, July 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In this book, Johnson introduces the concept of the hummingbird effect (NOT the butterfly effect): when “an innovation... in one field ends up triggering changes that seem to belong to a different domain altogether.” The first example is of the discovery of naturally occurring glass —> production of glass —> production of clear glass, which intersects with the invention of movable type to launch optometry and lensmaking, leading to modern astronomy, microbiology, and photography. Later in the book comes the population boom in the tropics having come from the invention of refrigeration (of both people and their food) having come from people moving from cutting blocks of ice out of frozen lakes and keeping them in ice houses for their own use to cutting the same blocks of ice out of the lakes but shipping them to where they became incredibly valuable.

I wasn't sure he'd be able to sustain this for the whole book… at times it seemed like, if you went by what he was saying, everything could be connected to everything else, and I couldn't help thinking a larger volume on a narrower slice of technological history would have been better. But, then again, sometimes you do want a more general book of just this length. And he does manage to hold it together (though I'd still like to read the book I described). He really does convince the reader of the fact that the old idea of the genius inventor working alone and coming up with something out of the blue never really was true. I'd definitely recommend this book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 28, 2014 1:17 PM PDT


The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs
The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs
by Greil Marcus
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.68
59 used & new from $12.94

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Was skeptical, was pleasantly surprised, July 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Of course Greil Marcus knows his stuff, but I was still a bit skeptical of this book's premise. "Unlike all previous versions of rock 'n' roll history, this book omits almost every iconic performer and ignores the storied events and turning points that everyone knows"? Well, OK — I can see being able to leave out the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, Woodstock, Monterey Pop, Altamont, Dylan going electric, etc... but I couldn't see this being possible leaving out the Beatles themselves.

As it turns out, 1) he didn't actually leave out the Beatles — they make up a large part of the "That'll Be the Day" chapter ostensibly about Buddy Holly — and 2) even though he did leave out, just to name a few of my favorite groups, the Beach Boys, the Who, the Kinks, and the Byrds, he managed to pull this concept off.

The writing can be a little much sometimes (the page-long list is interesting, just, once — not any more than that), but he does a good job of using the songs as frames in which to tell the story, which is of course that rock is more than just music — it's a viewpoint, a way of life. I'm honestly not so sure about that… at any rate, I think there's much to be said about music that doesn't appear to make the grade but does bring people together in some way. Beyoncé might not be my cup of tea but I wouldn't call her blasphemous, as does Marcus.

The chapters that I remember most are the one on Buddy Holly and the one on Robert Johnson. The former is almost more about the Beatles than about Holly, and includes a poignant section on the Twickenham sessions that ended up being the Let It Be movie. The latter is an alternate history of Johnson's life had he not died young. This could be silly in less expert hands, but as it is I found it captivating. I honestly wouldn't mind reading Marcus's take on what other artists might have done had they not died prematurely. Holly himself, of course, but the others as well.

Anyway — I liked it. I'm still not sure about including "Shake Some Action" (it's a great song but it seems a bit out of place, and if we're going for power pop I'd rather have seen Big Star), and not being a fan of Joy Division I just couldn't really connect with the "Transmission" chapter, but I wouldn't have been disappointed if I'd bought this. Get it if you're a rock fan — or get it for a rock fan.


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