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Helpful Votes: 1943




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PhysiciansCare 90370 99 Pieces ANSI/OSHA Weatherproof Xpress First Aid Kit with Refill System and Medication
PhysiciansCare 90370 99 Pieces ANSI/OSHA Weatherproof Xpress First Aid Kit with Refill System and Medication
Offered by Shoplet
Price: $33.33
7 used & new from $33.33

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, July 21, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am not a regular user of first aid; I just wanted this in case, to carry in my car on a road trip. For the light user, this is a good first aid kit. The products are fine; the antibiotic ointment is good, though there is more in the packet than is needed for a single cut. The bandaids are good. The plastic insert was unnecessary, so I took it out and put in more bandaids and such; the case holds quite a lot, and fits well into the niche I had for it. The tweezers are a little flimsy, seems like, but I didn't need to use them to pull out a bullet or anything. Fine product.


Shattered (Iron Druid Chronicles)
Shattered (Iron Druid Chronicles)
by Kevin Hearne
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.45
67 used & new from $11.64

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better and better, May 31, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've enjoyed all of the Iron Druid books: the mythology is fascinating, the action is fantastic, and Oberon, of course, is hilarious. If I had any complaint about them, it was that Atticus was perhaps a wee bit overpowered -- wealthy, immortal, able to do almost anything, it seemed, and immune to death thanks to the Morrigan's protection -- and watching him lay waste to pantheon after pantheon would have rapidly gotten tired. If I had any additional complaint, it might be that the books were a little too light, a little cheerier than I like, though of course that's more personal preference.

But thankfully, Kevin Hearne is too good an author for that. These last two books, especially, have shown that Atticus is not all-powerful, not immune to harm, and not capable of conquering any foe with ease. They have also grown a bit more serious, a little less light-hearted, which I enjoy. Oberon is still a major character, of course -- and now he's not alone! -- but he isn't in every chapter, his conversation doesn't dominate the book; so he is the excellent comic relief, rather than the irritating non-stop joke-factory.

I think the addition of two new characters, and the use of all three Druids as narrative points of view, was the real clincher. It allows the reader to consider the Druid's world from several different angles, and it's great. The newest character wasn't my favorite at first, largely because I really like Atticus and he was talking smack about my boy (if you'll pardon the lame slang -- I'm around teenagers all day), but then there's a scene later in the book when they reconcile, and it's an excellent moment.

The action remains great, the druids and the mix of mythologies remain fascinating, and the long-term plot is really heating up nicely. These are now five-star books, for me, and I can't wait for the next one.


Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, Texas)
Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, Texas)
by Charlaine Harris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.09
134 used & new from $8.85

9 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good start. Looking forward to more., April 26, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
At first, I thought that Midnight, Texas was a cliche, a repetition of the incredibly successful Sookie books (All of which I read, all of which I loved. Keep that in mind if you read this review.). And it is a cliche, of course, the small-town-with-fascinating-inhabitants concept going back to Winesburg, Ohio and Cold Sassy Tree and a hundred other books I couldn't name; but this is not Sookie Stackhouse's Bon Temps.

Not that it wouldn't appeal to fans of Sookie: it is still Charlaine Harris, and she still has the same gift for bringing characters to life and making the reader sympathize; this is a paranormal book, with psychics and witches and monsters, and murder, and mystery, and at least a breath of romance. There is the same humor, and the same slice-of-life feel to the novel -- and, if I can be slightly snarky without being mean, the same terrible names. I mean, really: Bobo Winthrop? Fiji Cavanaugh? Manfred Bernardo? (Said the guy named for the king of the Rohirrim in Tolkien's Middle Earth, who shares his last name with a cartoon bear, a Beanie Baby camel, and [I'm not making this up -- Google it] an animatronic plush dog that simulates sex. Pot, meet kettle.) I don't think Ms. Harris is bad at creating names (I think it likely there are people with names like these), I just have trouble taking a character named Bobo seriously as a romantic interest. Had the same problem with Sookie, honestly.

At any rate: this is a good book. I read it as fast, and with as many laughs and smiles, as any other book I've read, which is why I keep coming back to Charlaine Harris, who has one of the smoothest and least intrusive authorial voices I know. That makes for a good reading book. It did start slow, as the characters and setting were introduced; I had trouble at first finding a character I could really latch on to and enjoy, but it picked up about a third of the way through, and then I liked all of them. (Especially Mr. Snuggly.) The mystery was good, never unrealistic, the solution a bit of a surprise, though not a jaw-dropping shocker -- not enough time to set up a real stunner, though I don't doubt that Ms. Harris will find opportunities to floor me in this series, as she did with Sookie more than once. I generally liked the paranormal elements, though not particularly the introduction of Lemuel (Not a spoiler -- his first appearance reveals his nature, which was exactly my problem with it), which relies on being a part of Ms. Harris's already established universe to make it understandable, which isn't my favorite writing choice. There's a nod to the Harper Connelly series, too, which I haven't read, and so it is possible that the character of Manfred Bernardo is already known to some, although not to me.

I liked it. I'm recommending it, and getting the next one.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 6, 2014 10:19 AM PDT


Newman's Own Organics Advanced Dog Formula for Active or Senior Dogs, 12.5-Pound Bag
Newman's Own Organics Advanced Dog Formula for Active or Senior Dogs, 12.5-Pound Bag
Price: $25.99
9 used & new from $25.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Best dog food -- not the best source, April 26, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
My dog has allergies, and thus we try to avoid chicken fat and by-products, which we were told can exacerbate his foot-licking. We also try to stay away from foods heavy in processed grains. But when we fed him a high-protein food from the pet store, it caused a number of digestive issues, and so we shopped around some more -- and landed on Newman's. Best food for our dog, bar none. He's a healthy weight, his coat is so great the vet always admires it, and it has minimized his allergic reactions.

But: three times we have ordered the large bag from Amazon, because it is more economical than buying the 7-pound bag from the store, and three times, before we reached the end of the bag, it started causing indigestion again. Our assumption is that the food goes through temperature changes during shipping, and possibly sits in a warehouse for longer than the bags in the store, and so starts to go bad near the end.

So buy the food, but not the big bag -- or if you do, find some way to keep it fresh -- and maybe think twice about getting it in the mail. Sorry, Amazon.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 23, 2014 10:18 PM PDT


Sea of Shadows (Age of Legends)
Sea of Shadows (Age of Legends)
by Kelley Armstrong
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.72
66 used & new from $6.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, with the potential to get better., April 26, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm a fan of fantasy and a fan of young adult novels, and this was a decent example of both. I've read a couple of books by Kelley Armstrong before, not all of her work, and I liked the idea of reading an epic fantasy trilogy by her. This didn't disappoint. But neither did it amaze me. Hence, the three stars.

No question that part of the issue is that this is the first book in a trilogy, and thus is not the height of action and excitement. There is action and excitement, with some excellent battle scenes and some good surprises -- I especially liked the thunderbird fight, and the ending was genuinely unexpected -- but it ends with a teaser about the real action to come, said real action not being in this book.

This is not unusual in fantasy, though; The Fellowship of the Ring is exactly the same way, as is The Eye of the World and A Game of Thrones (The first book of the series, not the show.). All of them set up the world and introduce the characters, but lack the primary conflict, which comes later in the series. The trouble here, I think, is that this is a young adult book, and one written at least partly for a female audience, which are not bad things in themselves. But because it is YA, it is a lot shorter, and a little simpler and easier to follow than the usual epic fantasy tome like the three I named (Again, not a bad thing in itself), which means there isn't as much depth and background as I personally like. Not enough epic in the fantasy, let's say. And because it's written at least partly for a female audience, there was a bit more romance than I would have preferred, with a little more cliche than I like -- one guy for each of the twin female heroines (Of which one is the good girl, and the other is the adventurous one), one of them surly and brooding, the other a bit more raffish and fun. And so on.

But don't let me sell it too short. Armstrong is a good writer. The villains are excellent, the main characters are well-formed and interesting, the conflict that is set up here seems like a winner, and definitely has all the elements of epic fantasy. She uses a Japanese samurai feeling for her sword-element of the swords-and-sorcery, with a caste system that values warriors (who are the only ones permitted to carry or use swords) and denigrates merchants, and the traditional honor elements and the rigid social rules add some good conflict and depth to the story. The sorcery side is not overpowered, which is nice, and I really liked the down-to-earth Emperor who is introduced near the end. As the series goes on, I think it may really start to shine.

And if you like a little more feminine romantic feel to your fantasy, and prefer reading 400 page books to 900 page books, grab this one now.


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: $13.38
104 used & new from $2.98

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: $37.99
11 used & new from $32.92

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: $20.33
83 used & new from $11.60

1 of 1 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: $29.79
39 used & new from $24.92

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.


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