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Customer Reviews: 176
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Helpful Votes: 1879




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Theoden Humphrey "Dusty" RSS Feed (Oregon, US)
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Microsoft Word 2013 (1PC/1User) [Download]
Microsoft Word 2013 (1PC/1User) [Download]
Price: $79.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Works great, December 19, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I like it. I've always liked Word, though I have to keep a careful eye on the autocorrection and the inability to follow my grammatical style bugs me. But come on, that's just the way writing is -- it takes work to make the words say what you really want them to say.

I bought a laptop recently with Office already installed, so when I bought this, it became just a code that unlocked the program on my computer; this meant the "download" took about four nanoseconds. Well, not that fast, but it wasn't long. I did have to reinstall it once, when it snagged on a glitch of some kind and started telling me that Word could not open and Microsoft would alert me when there was a problem; I went to the Microsoft Help pages (You know, the ones the users maintain because the damn corporation is too callous and indifferent to actually help beyond giving people a forum to help themselves, no thanks to those capitalist pigdogs --not that I have an axe to grind or anything.) and found the solution fairly quickly; I told the program to troubleshoot, which essentially meant it had to reinstall itself, which it did, and no trouble since. I dig it.


The Lord of Opium
The Lord of Opium
by Nancy Farmer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $10.58
82 used & new from $4.68

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good sequel to a good book, December 19, 2013
This review is from: The Lord of Opium (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"House of Scorpion" is a good book: it's written well for the young adult audience, despite having fairly complicated science and politics involved, but the audience discovers the truth along with the main character, Matthew Alacran. But the book ends fairly abruptly.

This book picks right up where "House of Scorpion" left off, which makes it the most satisfying kind of sequel, especially for young readers who always want to know what happened next.

What happens next is, like the first book, a great concept: with the death of the original Matteo Alacran, the 140-year-old drug lord called El Patron, his clone, who shares his DNA but cannot "share" his identity and so is legally an unperson -- now he becomes, legally, the man whose DNA he has. And Matt becomes El Patron.

Which mean that now, Matt must try to survive El Patron's world. And since he is not very much like El Patron (at least not in ways he recognizes. Not at first.), he must try to find a way through the tangled webs that El Patron wove, in order to reshape the world of Opium so that it is more to his liking.

It's a little hard to read, emotionally; El Patron's world is particularly savage and heartless, and Matt has to live with it before he can change it -- and so of course, it begins to change him. This is a bit frustrating and disheartening for the reader. But Matt does handle it as well as he can, and fortunately, he has some help. He is not the villain, which I was glad for; I was worried at one point that he would actually become El Patron completely, but he does not. I won't spoil what does happen, I'll just leave it at that: it is not a cheerful book, as it is not a cheerful world, but Matt is not the villain.

A good book, again. I hadn't read the first book in five years or more, and so I had forgotten quite a lot of it; I would say that this book could stand alone, as there are enough flashbacks and explanations to allow a reader to grasp the larger story arc and the complicated setting, but you definitely lose some things just reading this book. Together with House of Scorpion, this is five stars, all the way.


PlayStation 3 SC-1 Wireless Sports Controller
PlayStation 3 SC-1 Wireless Sports Controller
Price: $36.98
9 used & new from $22.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Plese don't pay any attention to this., December 19, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I should not have ordered this, but it was my fault: I did not pay enough attention to the intended audience for the controller. I do not play sports games, so this was not the right thing for me. I tried it with Grand Theft Auto, and it was fine, the buttons, sticks, all work no trouble and I liked the trigger-style L2 and R2 more than the broad button on the standard controller, but none of the special features did any good for me. Turbo simulates multiple button pushes, which does make you run faster on GTA, but it doesn't work for driving or shooting, which do better with the button down. And there are programmable macros, which allow you to program in a certain sequence of button pushes -- also no good for me.

So I can't really review this product, though Vine requires me to do it. It's a good controller for general use. I also tried using it for a remote for my TV streaming, but it turns itself off to save power, so it was marginally less simple to use for that than the standard Dualshock. I assume it would be great for sports gamers.


The Serpent of Venice: A Novel
The Serpent of Venice: A Novel
by Christopher Moore
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.07

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great even without knowing the Shakespeare. But I bet it's better with it., November 28, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It's an excellent book, as are all of Christopher Moore's books. If anything, I deserve to have less than five stars, because I have never read the original works that this book plays with, at least not two of them. It is based in part on the Shakespeare plays Othello and The Merchant of Venice, and then in the beginning, on Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Cask of Amontillado." That reference, I caught. I think there is also some reference to The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, as there is a similar appearance by a similar monster in this one, though this time, it's a female monster and a male lead.

And, of course, there's Pocket. The hero of Fool, Moore's take on King Lear. With him are Jeff the hat-humping monkey, Drool the idiot with the ability to perfectly mimic any voice and repeat any conversation, and the puppet Jones, who crosses any line that Pocket does not. Oh -- and Pocket's massive codpiece, of course. Can't forget that.

It's a great book, a good story with plenty of laughs even if I only knew enough of the Shakespeare to recognize that I was missing lots of good references, particularly when the characters' speech patterns switch from Shakespearean to Moore-ish, when they start cussing and using double entendres. I loved it.


A Straightforward Guide to Teacher Merit Pay: Encouraging and Rewarding Schoolwide Improvement
A Straightforward Guide to Teacher Merit Pay: Encouraging and Rewarding Schoolwide Improvement
by Gary W. Ritter
Edition: Paperback
Price: $30.04
40 used & new from $22.80

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wrong., October 19, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There are a number of problems with this book. The worst is: it's wrong.
I don't say that because I am a public school teacher who opposes merit pay (though that is true), I say it because the first sentence of the foreword is "Gary Ritter and Josh Barnett have written a timely and practical book." Neither of these descriptors is true. Of course, this comment comes from a different person, not the authors; it would be absurd to judge their work using what someone else thinks it is as the definitive measure.
I'll just let that sentence simmer for a minute.
Look: the problem with the book is straightforward, and readily apparent from where the authors themselves begin. This book is too early. It is an instruction manual for an unproven and questionable solution, and it treats an ongoing debate as settled enough to move in the direction the authors want to believe is forward.
The stated intention of the book is to offer guidance for school leaders who wish to create a merit pay program in their school or district, but the Preface from the authors points out that "the question of teacher compensation may be the most controversial in the already heated world of education reform." The debate is heated because, as the authors themselves go on to show, there is no definitive evidence that merit pay accomplishes its primary goal of improving education either for teachers or students. Now, that should mean that the authors, as experts in education reform, should point out that until the data supports the claim, the argument is specious; merit pay seems like a reasonable way to solve the apparent problems in education, because the system works in other industries that use it; but by that standard, I should be able to teach by giving my students Milkbones when they do well and a swat with a newspaper when they do poorly, as that is how I trained my dog. (Actually, that may not be a terrible system . . .) The devil, as the authors point out several times, is in the details: just because it works in some other industry doesn't mean it works in education. Merit pay may influence car salesmen to work harder and sell more cars, but car buyers come in motivated, and are gone within hours, having accomplished a single, clearly-defined task; they generally have copious background knowledge and are in search of a single, definite, physical object, which the salesman possesses and for which the customers trade money -- and that is the sole purpose of the car salesman, to bring in that revenue and send out the inventory. This is not what educators do. Therefore the argument is not settled, and therefore, merit pay should not yet be the course set for all.
But that doesn't sell books, does it?
So instead the authors offer this justification: Everybody (President Obama, Bill Gates, the Economic Policy Institute -- all the top experts in the world of education) is talking about merit pay like it will work, so that means people will be bringing merit pay to their local schools, especially since some of those people are currently throwing money at the idea. We will show you how to do it (and advise you how to get the money being thrown). We hope that later evidence will show that merit pay actually works to do good things in education.
In that case, I would like to teach my high school language arts classes using "Fifty Shades of Gray." Everyone is talking about the book, and I feel confident that later data will support my decision.
The authors do summarize what data there is to support their position, but it is poor at best -- and when they point out, and quite rightly, that one of the problems with bringing in merit pay is overcoming teacher resistance, the lack of good data becomes even more problematic, because even if you have faith that the system will work, you aren't going to convince teachers without evidence, which means you must impose it over their objections. They describe a few studies (eight, some strong and some weak, according to their analysis) that surveyed teachers in merit pay systems and showed that, in most of the studies (five out of eight), positive outcomes outnumbered negative outcomes. For student outcomes, the data shows this, in the authors' own words: "Overall, the evidence base suggests that we should not expect the adoption of merit pay programs (of the types used up to this point) to lead to short-term gains in student achievement." (The systems have not been in place long enough to show long-term gains or losses.)
So some teachers have enjoyed getting bonuses, and student outcomes have not changed. Oh, sign me up.
I have been somewhat disingenuous in focusing on the above issues of the effect on teacher morale and student outcomes from merit pay; the real reason for merit pay, as the authors point out in several places, is to change the makeup of our teaching corps. They claim that the focus of teacher compensation has been on creating stability, with reliable annual increases, good benefits, and tenure as the perquisites of the profession. They imply that this brings only mediocre people, those who seek stability and comfort, those who wish to hide in an anonymous sinecure, to the profession; they imply that the people who become teachers for these reasons are not risk-takers, not experimenters, not movers and shakers, and therefore not the ideal teachers for America's youth. They claim that the best prospects would be drawn in by merit pay, by the opportunity to gain income based on one's own hard-won success, and the chances of earning more money when one does well.
This argument barely deserves the name. Good people are not drawn to professions that offer the possibility of bonuses, based on annual data gains; that draws gamblers, primarily those who think they can game the system and earn maximum result with minimum effort. Good people are drawn to professions that have reliably high incomes and are granted a certain amount of respect or prestige in our society: doctors and lawyers and investment bankers. If you want to draw those people, you need to double, or triple, the average teacher's salary, and stop talking about how lazy and mediocre and ineffective teachers are. Merit pay is not the answer. Again. Let me also point out that there is no particular reason to think that the "top candidates" as the authors define them, meaning those with the best college credentials, would make the best teachers, simply because they make good doctors and lawyers (Assuming that the good doctors and lawyers are those "top candidates."). There is surely no reason to think that those who are attracted to high bonuses without good base pay would be the best teachers.
The real arguments behind this system are presented at the very end of the book: because once merit pay becomes the standard for compensation, it would surely become the means by which teachers would be laid off, rather than the current system of seniority; and in order to pay for the bonuses, current payroll systems would need to be reconfigured. The goal here is to eliminate the stability that teachers now enjoy. To make their salary, and their employment, unreliable. To make teachers nervous and uncomfortable. To make them easier to manipulate and control. Whether or not it makes them better teachers is essentially irrelevant.
Lest you think I am only grinding my paranoid axe on the whetstone of my self-righteousness, let me quote the authors directly. "In many schools, fewer teachers are being hired, and some teachers are being furloughed. The question is, how are we determining who should be released? In many instances, these releases are based on seniority, which follows a certain rationale. Creating a merit-based-plan . . . where teachers have agreed to the evaluation measures, would seemingly be a much more effective manner of reducing personnel when needed." And in the next paragraph: "Barring the short-term problem with the economy, the costs of a merit pay plan also can be largely absorbed by restructuring the existing payroll plans. That is, consider the bonuses attached to years of experience and additional degrees, which could be reallocated to merit." As for the desire to control teachers, that's here: "Thus, under the current single-salary structure, teacher pay cannot be used to motivate teachers to change their teaching strategies, to collaborate with their peers more, or to work harder. The current single-salary system simply does not allow school leaders to use compensation as a lever to motivate particular behaviors, efforts, or strategies from teachers."
This is not a book intended to improve education. It is a book intended to help those who wish to break the backs of teachers' unions and turn teaching into a profession based on commission. And that, quite frankly, is wrong.
So if you are an administrator genuinely curious about the value of merit pay: look elsewhere for better data, more studies, and a how-to text without a ready-made agenda. If you are a teacher and your administrators have this book: run. Or fight. If you are seeking only to destroy the teaching profession as we know it and replace teachers with more malleable, lower-paid workers, here's your step-by-step guide. I hope you reconsider.


Hoover FloorMate Deluxe Hard Floor Cleaner, FH40160
Hoover FloorMate Deluxe Hard Floor Cleaner, FH40160
Price: $139.99
22 used & new from $124.73

4.0 out of 5 stars I like this better than my mop., September 25, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
First: the machine works well, and is not difficult to use. It is essentially an electric mop, but it's even better: it has scrubbers (two different sets, one for hardwood or linoleum and another for tile -- I believe there's a model with three scrubber options, but that's not the one I have.), which do a nice job, and it vacuums up and collects the excess water, making for cleaner floors and faster drying time. Overall, it really does seem to do a better job than my old mop did, and I certainly appreciate that it requires a whole lot less elbow grease.

Assembly was easy, and it seems to be holding up well. The tanks stay in place, and don't leak; they are easy enough to detach and empty and fill. The included soap has done a fine job on my floors, though I don't have heavy foot traffic or tons of mud and such.

My only issue with the device is the controls. There is a dial on the body which controls whether you are washing or drying -- washing means the scrubbers are active and you can spray water and soap; dry means it is only vacuuming-- which is great, except it should be a switch and it should be closer to the handle. The handle has a trigger for spraying water, which means you have to hold it down with the same fingers that are pulling and pushing the machine, and it gets a little tiresome, though it is not heavy enough to become painful or difficult. There is a thumb switch for Power Boost! which I haven't even used. That thumb switch should be where the sprayer trigger is, so you can use your fingers just to hold and move the machine, and your thumb to spray when you need it. The foot controls for On/Off and releasing the handle so the base stays flat on the floor while you move it are fine.

Aside from those minor complaints, this is a good tool, and I'm glad I get to get rid of my mop.


Dirt Devil Vigor Cyclonic Pet Bagless Upright Vacuum, UD70222
Dirt Devil Vigor Cyclonic Pet Bagless Upright Vacuum, UD70222
Price: $79.99
3 used & new from $71.27

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This thing sucks., September 25, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
(Forgive me: I cannot resist temptation. I may not be trying very hard.)

Man, does this sucker suck! I mean, it sucks harder than any other machine I've had, while weighing less, which doesn't suck when you're moving through the house, sucking. It's the suckiest sucker that ever sucked. I've used it to suck linoleum and carpet, and it sucks on both; I've sucked a flight of stairs using the sucking-tool, and it sucked like crazy. I happily discarded my old sucker, which sucked, too, but not as well and while weighing 50% more than this sucker. The container is easy enough to empty, and it was full after all that sucking.

I only have two caveats: like any other upright sucker, the attachments do not hold to the hose especially well, and getting the hose back into the base is somewhat tricky. But by "tricky" I mean you actually have to focus on it for two or three seconds, instead of singing along with "She Works Hard For The Money" the whole time. And the assembly is, for me, less than perfect: when I put it together, the hose connection to the back of the body had a large gap -- I mean an inch-square hole on the top side of the connection -- which made me think, "Is there a missing piece?" There is not, and it doesn't affect the function. I dunno why it's there, but ignore it. I would have liked it if the instructions allayed my initial fear, maybe with a picture, or a little comment "Ignore the big gap. 'Sokay." The handle, which is held on with a single large screw, seems to be loosening slightly after a few full-house suckings, but it's no more than a vague annoyance requiring a screwdriver and ten seconds to remedy.

Overall, this is a good quality sucker.


Boston Jacky: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Taking Care of Business (Bloody Jack Adventures)
Boston Jacky: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Taking Care of Business (Bloody Jack Adventures)
by L. A. Meyer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.86
59 used & new from $9.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time for me to eat some crow --and love Jacky even more!, September 25, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
All right: for the last two books of this series -- maybe even three -- I have been writing reviews that express my joy in reading the Bloody Jack books, but which also express my irritation with one specific aspect: the romance. I have carped and complained about Jacky making out with every attractive young male who crosses her path, all while still holding a torch for Jaimy Fletcher, a character I love and identify with. I have asked in these reviews for the next book in the series to take the nookie down a notch, and focus on the other parts of Jacky's adventures, which I find enchanting.

And this book does exactly that.

So thank you, Mr. Meyer, for continuing to write these wonderful books, and for making every one worth reading, even -- is it eleven? -- books into the series. Thank you for making this book exactly what I wanted it to be: funny, exciting, light-hearted without being frivolous, and a solid forward step in the ongoing Faber-Fletcher romance without any detours into dalliance for our beloved heroine and her many, many admirers.

Though I can't thank you for the ending. Which I will not spoil any further than that.

For those who are fans, this is a great Jacky book, a lot like Mississippi Jack: Jacky is the entrepreneuse, building up her businesses to include every one of her passions and gifts, and to make as much money as possible in as many ways as possible, while also helping out those she loves, and protecting those who need it. There are excellent villains, who do some serious harm to our beloved Jacky, but cannot break her. At least, not entirely. Not yet. I can't wait for the next book.

For those who are not yet Jacky fans, seriously: what the heck are you waiting for? Go buy Bloody Jack, and come meet us here, eleven wonderful novels later!


BISSELL SpotClean Auto Portable Cleaner for Carpet & Cars, 7786A
BISSELL SpotClean Auto Portable Cleaner for Carpet & Cars, 7786A

4.0 out of 5 stars Great product, but can be a little tricky, August 15, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This little machine -- it's the size of a bowling bag or so, and quite light when empty of fluid -- does a fantastic job. We had a carpet stain behind the desk that had been there for years, and this took it up immediately. (I don't mean that we tried to clean it many times in the past, just that the stain was old and well-set, and is now gone.) It has a nice long power cord, so you don't have to worry too much about reaching your cleaning area from the outlet, and the hose and attachments are fine, good quality, tough, and they connect well. The machine came unassembled, but snapped together in minutes with basic picture instructions. We used the soap included, and it was fine.

A few tips: filling the reservoir for a "large stain" doesn't mean filling it for a large stain, it apparently means filling it for cleaning an area rug. We thought the stain we were cleaning was fairly large, so we used that mark on the reservoir, but after cleaning our stain and a few other small spots, we hadn't used a third of the solution.

**Make sure you empty the hose of water after use! If you don't drain the whole thing into a sink, water will get everywhere. But at least you'll have an effective way of cleaning it up.


From the Ground Up: A Food Grower's Education in Life, Love, and the Movement That's Changing the Nation
From the Ground Up: A Food Grower's Education in Life, Love, and the Movement That's Changing the Nation
by Jeanne Nolan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.71
49 used & new from $9.69

5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely and tranquil as a garden., July 29, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book makes me want to garden.

It also makes me want to start my own business. And begin, simply by using my own life and my own experiences as an example for other people who want to do what I do, a grass-roots movement to improve the lives of thousands, and do some good for the Earth, at the same time. And it makes me want to marry my soulmate (Well, luckily for me I already did that.) and reconnect to my parents and my youth and learn to live with the mistakes that I made. And it makes me want to write a good memoir, too.

Because Jeanne Nolan does all of those things.

Apart from the inspiration I gathered from this lovely story of one woman's growth and blossoming, this book was so sweet and happy and uplifting; quite different from most of the memoirs I read, though as with any life story, there is pain and regret, here, too. Even more striking was the difference between this book, which is as much about the green movement, the locavore food movement, the urban farming movement, as it is about one woman's life, and every other book I have read (and I have read a lot, from Michael Pollan to the deconstruction of a Twinkie) about the modern world of food: this book, unlike all the rest, is -- positive. It is hopeful. Ms. Nolan shares her wonder at how eager people are to improve their food and their lives, and it is wonderful to read. It makes me feel happy, and calm; essentially what people feel when they spend time in a garden.

It's a wonderful feeling. It's a lovely book.


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