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L. M. Crane RSS Feed (Durham, NC USA)

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All the Birds in the Sky
All the Birds in the Sky
by Charlie Jane Anders
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.59
104 used & new from $5.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good initial premise, poorly executed, July 16, 2016
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There was a potential germ of a story here, but the author didn’t pull it off successfully. The political message about people despoiling the earth with cataclysmic consequences failed to define the causes, except for one episode in Siberia. We are just to accept that human presence is bad.

There are two storylines about how to respond to the earth’s eventual environmental end – one by a central character who comes from the community of magic and another character who comes from the intellectual scientific community. The only reason they interact is because they grew up together as social outcasts in the same school where they became friends.

Their early life as “nerds” is overdone. Laurence (the scientific genius) is constantly being physically tortured in a variety of ways by the school bully. Patricia (the eventual magician) is socially shunned and has rocks thrown at her with some frequency. The number of these episodes becomes just too much. Perhaps the author is overcompensating for her own difficult childhood (Google her). Patricia’s sister, an obvious sociopath that tortures both animals and Patricia herself, seems to be their parent’s favorite for no good reason. Okay, we get it, people who are different are often treated unfairly, but the book makes it seem like school is a perpetual deadly hazing ritual.

Their lives diverge as one becomes a superstar in the scientific world and the other a significant figure in the magical world, but they occasionally intersect. It is those intersections that temper both of them and allow them to peer into each other’s world.

All in all, the scientific community gets painted as ethically challenged. Rather than alleviating the world’s environmental problems, they spend their time and capital on escaping it to go to another world. The implication is that they will most likely spoil the new world if they succeed.

The magical community is portrayed as the true healers of the earth, although their end game is anything but healing. Patricia has true connections to the natural world and animals, and her skills in that regard are held in esteem by her fellow magicians. They also fear she will make another mistake like an episode that started for environmental reasons in Siberia, but back-fired with unintended consequences.

Neither the magical nor scientific communities appear to be much aware of each other except for the episodic interactions between Patricia and Laurence and one episode near the end.

The reader, of course, hopes that the two protagonists will join forces to save the world from destruction by human hands. Or that they will unite the magical and scientific to find solutions. None of this happens and the book ends in a muddle. Patricia and Laurence find affection and affinity for each other, but their respective communities of magic and science do not. Perhaps that will occur in a sequel.

The book wasted my time and money. The author has numerous other published works and has received a number of minor literary prizes, so I expected better. Perhaps her work at Gawker changed her.

Sminiker Showliss Pro Automatic Curler LCD Hair Curler Automatic Hair Curling Iron Pro Universal Voltage with Gift Box Birthday Gift Christmas Gift (green&blue)
Sminiker Showliss Pro Automatic Curler LCD Hair Curler Automatic Hair Curling Iron Pro Universal Voltage with Gift Box Birthday Gift Christmas Gift (green&blue)
Offered by Chinagoodseller
Price: $210.00
2 used & new from $59.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Did not work as advertised, April 29, 2016
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WIFE'S REVIEW: Doesn't work as easily as the videos would have you believe. The curler only curls a very small amount of hair at time. Difficult to do the back of your head, even with a mirror. Very time consuming and not worth it . If you put too much hair in the curler, it tangles really badly. I had to have my husband get my hair out of the product on one occasion.

I returned the curler for a refund.

Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective
Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective
by Thomas Sowell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.85
92 used & new from $9.11

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding discussion of a complex issue - A must read, December 3, 2015
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As would be expected of anything Thomas Sowell writes, this book is clear and well organized. His main goal is not polemical, but to make you think through the facts of the subject of poverty and politics by listing all the factors involved in the creation of wealth, diffusion of knowledge that leads to wealth, keeping wealth, and occasional transience of wealth in people or nations.

Simple thinkers always come up with simple evaluations of issues. So it has been with the issue of wealth distribution and politics. Many make a simplistic link between income inequality and politics, demanding equal outcomes without considering the unequal inputs and other factors involved in wealth creation. Many of these factors are beyond an individual's control, but are simply present (climate, geography, waterways, etc.).

This book is not limited to the racial or class arguments in the United States, but covers world history as well as current international examples of each of the factors discussed in this book. By looking at the larger world and historical view, the present issue of income inequality can be seen in a much clearer light. Sowell brings many facts to the table that you probably have not even thought of, but, now that you know them, you can think about these issues in a more mature fashion. The book is not political and both liberals and conservatives can learn a great deal from it.

Bird B Gone Woodpecker Deterrent Kit
Bird B Gone Woodpecker Deterrent Kit
Price: $12.82
24 used & new from $10.90

2.0 out of 5 stars Not impressed, especially at this price point., December 3, 2015
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Kit contains a large, yellow balloon with shiny "eyes" and a few reflective red ribbons. After 3 days, our woodpecker returned.

Note, the items in this kit will also scare away any other birds you might have in the area, so don't post it near your bird feeder.

Dog Treats Made in the USA only - Beef Jerky Chew Sticks - All Natural Healthy Gluten and Grain Free Pet Food Snacks - Perfect Training Supplies - Fifi & Fido Beefy Jerky Treats
Dog Treats Made in the USA only - Beef Jerky Chew Sticks - All Natural Healthy Gluten and Grain Free Pet Food Snacks - Perfect Training Supplies - Fifi & Fido Beefy Jerky Treats
Offered by Mano and Mano
Price: $30.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent product, December 3, 2015
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My dogs absolutely love this product - more so than any others. Made in the USA adds safety.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 4, 2015 5:27 PM PST

Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment
Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment
by Michael Javen Fortner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.40
58 used & new from $21.05

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely, balanced, and informative, November 4, 2015
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Balanced, well researched, and informative, The Black Silent Majority provides a timely review of how drugs, crime, and racism intersected to affect the black middle class and lead to harsher drug laws. Currently we hear much about "mass incarceration" and its racial implications. Before we can address the subject, we need to understand it. Why did we start increasing drug and violent crime sentence length? When did first occur? Is it all secondary to racism? If not, what other factors led to increasing incarceration of individuals, primarily those of color? Fortner's book stands out for its reasoned approach in explaining a complex history and helps us understand similar problems today. His book covers the time period from the Civil War up to Governor Rockefeller's enactment of harsh drug crime laws in New York in 1973. This information is timely for today's discussion because everything that happened up to 1973 has just repeated itself. Every issue we discuss today was discussed then. Every solution presented today, was also presented previously. What worked and what didn't?

Contrast Fortner's book with Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow" Like Fortner, she does considerable research and outlines our racist legal history very well. Unfortunately, Alexander cites many of the facts selectively, highlighting those that superficially seem to make her point, mainly that white racists, in an attempt to control blacks when Jim Crow laws seemed to be fading, made laws that unfairly singled out blacks and increased their sentences in order to get them off the streets. She specifically cites Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton as leaders in this effort. Her main solution would be to erase drug laws from the books and release 50% of the prison population to return to prison population levels 40 years ago. Even though her book has achieved critical acclaim, it suffers tremendously from cognitive bias when she attempts to assign "guilt" to whites for all evils and mass schemes worthy of Machiavelli.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a long time critic of racism in America, in his recent Atlantic magazine articles on the subject of black incarceration, is more even tempered, allowing that family dissolution and excess drug usage, combined with racism, led to the abnormally high incarceration of blacks. He also questions the role that welfare laws have played in regards to the poor black family. Coates notes the high number of federal prisoners in for drug violations, but notes that very few of them were non-violent offenders, making early release problematic.

Fortner's book lays out all the facts impartially. He notes when politics came into play and when it did not as national attitudes about how to control drug related crime developed. Many black artistic and business advancements occurred during the Jim Crow era of the early 20th century. After WW II, however, heroin usage became more prevalent in the US, especially in the black inner city. As drug usage grew, so did the crime that accompanied it. Middle and upper class blacks, confined to certain housing regions by racist red-lining and other real estate practices, were prevented from leaving these communities where crime affected everyone. As a result, they bore the brunt of the increasing crime wave due to drugs. It was this middle class, represented by Adam Clayton Powell and Charles Rangel among many others, that steadily demanded removal of drug criminals from the neighborhood "for life in prison" or, as some demanded, be "put to death." They also demanded an increased police presence in their communities, despite their aversion to some racist police. This middle class pressure, applied from 1950-1975, finally caused Nelson Rockefeller to reverse his prior moderate views on drug crime and enact harsher penalties for drug crimes in 1973. National politicians would soon follow for many of the same reasons.

Fortner's book reminds us that there was (and is) a large silent black majority that constitute the main victims of drug crime. Whites, usually from communities removed from drug crime, concentrated on the drug criminals (treatment, racist structure of society, poverty, etc.) and seemingly ignored the victims of drug crime that were predominantly black.

Fortner doesn't shirk descriptions of racism and its effects on the black community. He lists them in great detail. He does, however, point out that the burgeoning black middle class was making great strides forward in the 1940-1970's, while at the same time black community drug crime was rising rapidly, so simple poverty and structural racism weren't the only etiology of drug usage.

This book is timely and informative, especially as we are currently considering the role of drugs and crime in our society (increasingly involving whites, both poor and not). What is being discussed today (treatment or incarceration of addicts, level of incarceration of drug dealers who may be addicts themselves, unequal treatment under the law of powdered versus crack cocaine, role of police in neighborhoods, etc.) was also discussed before. Every one of these same issues and a variety of approaches were either tried or talked about several decades ago. Fortner's book provides the historical facts so that we don't just repeat the same mistakes or that we don't simply view these issues through biased political ideologies. I would suggest this book and Coate's Atlantic article for anyone seriously wanting to learn more about the subject of prison incarceration and racial implications. For a conservative counterpoint, read Heather McDonald's article on the subject [ ]. After reading all three you will have a much better understanding of this important issue.

Africa: A Biography of the Continent
Africa: A Biography of the Continent
by John Reader
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.58
177 used & new from $0.53

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overall review of Africa's history and importance, September 20, 2015
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Africa is a huge continent with diverse geography and peoples, so any effort to encompass the entire history of the continent in one volume will, by necessity, either omit or minimize some aspects of that history. For example, much of the history of Africa north of the Sahara is missing, as is the impact of Islam on the continent and the slave trade. Note that the book ends in 1999, thereby giving only a brief summary of the effect Nelson Mandela had on South Africa or more recent political developments.

To be fair, each chapter in this well written book could have developed into a book of its own if everything known was to be included. So, accept that this book, despite its length, is merely a summary and guideline of Africa’s history. Nonetheless, it is a valuable read for anyone wishing to embark on exploring Africa’s vast geography and history.

Recently returned from a long trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe, I wanted to delve more into Africa’s history in order to better understand what I had seen and learned from numerous personal interviews with white and black, old and young citizens of those two countries. I was specifically interested in how slavery developed, how a small colonial population both exploited and controlled a larger indigenous population, how racial separation came to be the norm, and why numerous post-colonial African nation governments failed miserably. Fortunately, these are the book’s strongest areas. Now I have a framework for future detailed reading.

Most readers will find that many of their pre-conceived notions about African “tribes,” non-European African history, and African nation states will be wrong, as much of what Westerners have learned is framed by a European outlook and tradition. This book illuminates and details these and other subjects from a relatively un-biased historical perspective. [Yes, some will quibble over a few statements by the author, but that’s to be expected of any book of this sweeping nature.]

It would have been helpful if some maps were included in the book to assist in defining various geographic areas with changing borders and names. These could have been placed at the beginning of many of the chapters to refresh the reader on locations. Overall, however, I am glad I read this book.

Arlo Smart Security - 3 HD Camera Security System, 100% Wire-Free, Indoor/Outdoor with Night Vision (VMS3330)
Arlo Smart Security - 3 HD Camera Security System, 100% Wire-Free, Indoor/Outdoor with Night Vision (VMS3330)
Price: $438.47
22 used & new from $399.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Inconsistent motion detection/video recording; plus comparison with older Netgear ViewZone system, September 17, 2015
I previously used a Netgear VueZone wireless security camera system to augment my fixed wired system and was pleased with its performance, despite the lower resolution video. When Netgear came out with the Arlo upgrade offer for VueZone owners, I presumed it was only a matter of time before VueZone would be phased out. Based on the many positive reviews found on Amazon, I purchased the upgrade. I wish I had found the Arlo user community bulletin board first, because reviews there are less than stellar. The main problem is significant lag time between motion detection and video filming onset (at least 5-15 seconds). Plus, the motion detection is not as good as my old VueZone system.

In retrospect, I’m sorry I switched, but there is no going back, as a condition of the Netgear upgrade offer was that my VueZone system was to be disconnected and never used again.

Here are some pros and cons of the Arlo system, followed by a comparison with the older VueZone system.

• Wireless, therefore no direct data or electrical connection required
• Easy to install basic system. Written documentation is poor for all other setup functions although, with some effort, better documentation is available on-line (see below)
• Cameras run on batteries. Only the Arlo router needs to be connected to battery backup in case of electrical outage. Everything runs through it for web recording.
• High quality video
• Camera mounting easy
• Arlo is a passive recorder of any video, and then only that which is triggered by motion. Only I can view a live feed, unlike monitored video systems where the monitoring company can view your home at any time.
• Poor or inconsistent motion detection. User bulletin boards are full of complaints about poor function of this heat based detection system (even after increasing detection sensitivity settings and camera re-positioning), significant detection time lag, or inconsistent detection. Arlo tech people say the recording should start within 1-2 seconds, but it takes at least 5-10 seconds for my cameras, all of which are optimally positioned for lateral motion and have sensitivity set on high. I can walk through my front door and down the hallway before the camera (8 feet away) starts recording. This is a major deficit for a video monitoring security system.
• No audio in or out
• No local video recording option. You must buy their video storage package. Yes, you can get 7 days storage for free, but what about when you go on vacation and can’t retrieve the videos for over 7 days?
• No automatic reporting of intrusion to the police.
• This should not be your main security system for many reasons. Use it to provide video augmentation of a pre-installed security system.
• Poor written documentation for camera setups once you’ve done the basic installation. On-line documentation is quite good, however. You absolutely must visit for other setup information. You will also get valuable information from the community bulletin board

• Arlo cameras twice the size and weight of VueZone cameras
• Arlo cameras use 4 batteries per camera compared to VueZone two.
• VueZone camera batteries last up to a year, while Arlo’s only estimated at 4-6 months (in camera IR source, higher definition camera). So, Arlo will require much higher battery costs.
• VueZone requires separate infrared light source (electrical plug-in required) and a day/night camera version for night detection. Arlo has the IR source built in, one of the reasons for more batteries and higher battery drain, and all cameras are day/night.
• Arlo has higher resolution images and higher frame rate video
• Arlo camera has wider field of view
• Arlo’s motion detection not as good as VueZone camera (see Arlo user boards)
• Arlo system has more control, including scheduled on-off times, motion sensitivity control, field of view control
• Arlo cameras weatherproof. VueZone supposed to use a weather cover outside, but I’ve had one under the eaves of a house for a year without problem.
• Magnetic dome mounts for VueZone merely required a peel and stick on, whereas the Arlo mounts require screws.

I contacted Netgear support about the limitations of the Arlo system mentioned above. Swift and knowledgeable support by Salomon Escudero of their support staff.

*** First, he worked with me on repositioning a front door/walkway camera so that it better detected motion and provided faster video response time.
*** Second, he showed me how to have one camera trigger another, so my camera in the front hall gave a faster response time for anyone entering the front door.
*** The new Arlo cameras, due to their higher resolution and self-contained IR system, require higher bandwidth in communicating with the router. This slightly slows their response and apparent motion sensitivity compared to the old VueZone system which was much simpler. As noted above, I was able to overcome the lagging response of the Arlo cameras by repositioning and using their much more adaptive software rules. Others may not be able to do so.
*** The new Arlo Q camera will be sold soon. This camera will record sound and allow remote speech through the camera, making up for one of the limitations of the current cameras. Now if they will just allow local data recording ....................

The Intern: Chasing Murderers, Hookers, and Senators Across DC Wasn't In The Job Description
The Intern: Chasing Murderers, Hookers, and Senators Across DC Wasn't In The Job Description

2.0 out of 5 stars Disapppointing, September 7, 2015
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Fast read that passes the time. Starts very slow, not by setting up current or future characters, but just an attempt to start the novel. What happens next and everything that follows is implausible. Each setback gets a lucky reprieve. Seems to be luck rather than the skill or character of the protagonist. Would make a good movie on Lifetime.

Throughout the novel, I just never believed in or cared about any of the characters.

by David Walton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.51
66 used & new from $0.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read with added science bonus, August 15, 2015
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This review is from: Superposition (Paperback)
The basic story is summarized in other reviews and won't be repeated here. Although the subject of alternate universes has been utilized in many other works, often with a dose of magical realism, David Walton gives you the physics straight up. For anyone with a science background and a smattering of quantum physics background, this approach is delightful. You won't need that background to enjoy the book, but it adds another layer of enjoyment. The accompanying murder mystery, thriller, and family dynamics layers work well together.

Yes, science-knowledgeable readers can find some plot holes, but most books require the reader to overlook a few inconsistencies as well. Overall, I enjoyed Walton's fresh approach.

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