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The Road to Character
The Road to Character
by David Brooks
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.96
51 used & new from $13.89

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The road leads elsewhere, April 18, 2015
This review is from: The Road to Character (Hardcover)
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reviewed an advance copy. It was an uncorrected proof, but even at that stage it had fewer copy errors than most finished books do. So mechanically, the team did a good job on this book.

I don't follow any of the venues in which Mr. Brooks appears or is published, so this was my first exposure to him and to his thoughts. Noticeable in this book is most of the text doesn't reflect his thoughts. Most of it is story-telling, and I had a hard time seeing where each story was going in relation to the theme of the book. I had difficulty trying to get what point or points he was trying to make, because he seemed to digress as he told each story.

Perhaps I did get what I presume to be his core point. If I understand him correctly, Brooks asserts there are two sides to us. There's Adam I (self-centered and self-aggrandizing) and there's Adam 2 (others-centered and self-effacing). Each story presumably illustrates one of these or both.

In my own discussion style, I will often start off with a good example but then go on too long about that example, expanding it into its own story and diverting the entire discussion from the original point. A very good friend of mine, in exasperation, pointed this out to me (not for the first time) while I was reading this book. While such a story may be interesting in its own right, it can (and often does) derail the conversation by causing it to lose focus. The effect in a verbal conversation can be rather annoying t those whose communication style isn't story-based.

Brooks did not convince me that the road character is the same as the road to the Adam II modality. When you hear the phrase, "He's a man of character" or "I admire her for her high degree of character," what comes to mind? Can self-centered people possess character? When Martin Luther King said he dreamed of the day we would judge men not by the color of their skin, but by their character, what did he mean?

If you scour the definitions presented in various dictionaries, you find it has to do with moral excellence and consistency of holding to moral values. So things such as your honesty in dealing with other people, your willingness to endure personal sacrifice rather than sacrifice your moral ideals, and being a "solid citizen" come to mind. Do they not?

Brooks seems to be talking about something else. I'm not sure what it is, though. In some cases, I began to think he was proselytizing in a religious sense; he seemed to put a great deal of emphasis on religion. But morals don't derive from religion (though most religions do prescribe a moral code). The most immoral acts have been done in the name of religion, and continue to be done in the name of religion today. Many agnostics and atheists have outstanding character and very high morals. Many, admittedly, do not. Religiosity and moral fiber (or character) are two separate issues. Brooks doesn't see them as such.

A point he makes both implicitly and explicitly is that prior to the end of World War II, Americans were, both individually and collectively, exemplars of culture characterized by others-centered and self-effacing (Adam II). But after the end of hostilities, Americans (according to Brooks) sank into a spoiled brat, self-centered, self-aggrandizing, me-me-me culture both individually and collectively. Members of the Greatest Generation were humble and effective, subsequent generations missed the mark by miles.

But I don't find this point properly supported in his book. Nor do I find it supported in other literature or in my own observations. Any time you extrapolate from specific examples to the general, you're on dangerous ground. Each of his stories was a specific example. The extrapolations are non-sequitors. He didn't present meta data to support his claims, nor did he present a solid theory to support them (he did present a theory, but it's a weak one).

He seems to be saying that Americans had character before the end of WWII and haven't had it since. He did highlight a difference in personal confidence that is probably true. After all, we won the war. Our economic competitors bombed each others' factories and infrastructure, while ours remained intact. This put FDR's Depression (brought on by excessive debt, something exacerbated ever since) on temporary hold, giving us an economic boom while they rebuilt. By the late 1950s, this reprieve ended; American employers were laying off workers in 1958. But what does this have to do with character?

Humility is a virtue. But it's not a moral issue. Many people of high moral standards are not very humble about it. Some people have character in spades, and take great pride in that. Have you not encountered a judgmental person who strictly follows society's moral rules? They are everywhere, so of course you have. And what about self-important people who get things done in the name of moral virtue? Leaders are rarely humble people. Dynamic leaders never are. They are good, and they know it. That's one reason we follow them. Western civilization texts don't celebrate Alexander the Humble, they celebrate Alexander the Great.

An acid test of Brooks' theory might be this. If Americans began lacking character after World War II because they sank into the Adam I condition, how did so many people have the moral fortitude to face attack dogs and fire hoses in Selma, Alabama? How did they have the steadfastness of character to hold so firmly to the nonresistance credo that they didn't fight back even when attacked with clubs? Think, and you can easily come up with many other examples of character since 1945.

OK, so you probably "get it" that I think Brooks spent too much space storytelling and not enough making his point or expressing his own thoughts on character. As I read this, the meandering gave me the impression there were multiple authors and too many cooks in the kitchen. So I wasn't surprised at his comments in the acknowledgements. That's exactly what happened.

So is the book even worth reading?

Yes, it is. The book does make food for thought. However, it's really a collection of separate ideas (and stories) rather than a treatise on character. The stories, which mostly struck me as irrelevant, are interesting in their own right. The various ideas unrelated to character are also interesting, and are worth exploring separately. Just don't expect it to show you the road to character, because it doesn't.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 18, 2015 9:36 AM PDT

All Clad Textiles Heavyweight 100-Percent Cotton Twill and Silicone Oven Mitt, Pewter
All Clad Textiles Heavyweight 100-Percent Cotton Twill and Silicone Oven Mitt, Pewter
Price: $14.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I also use the best available ingredients, April 3, 2015
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I bake regularly. For this reason, I own premium bakeware. No Teflon-coated aluminum for me (in addition to being toxic, it's harder to work with than high-quality bakeware). I also use the best available ingredients; no GMO poison or factory-farmed eggs.

What I haven't upgraded in all these years is my collection of oven mitts. I've been (barely) satisfied with the ones I have. Until I tried the All-Clad product, I had no idea what I was missing.

The first thing I noticed is its appearance. While my other mitts aren't exactly ugly, they don't make a fashion statement either. Being a guy, I'm not really concerned about that. But this mitt just seems to say, "The oven may be hot, but the chef is cool." Kind of like wearing dark sunglasses and a leather jacket.

It's also roomy inside. I have large hands. All of my other mitts give me a tight squeeze. As someone who tolerates this in climbing shoes, I've not paid much attention to the tight fit of my other mitts. This one accommodates my hand, but is so well-cushioned that it comfortably snugs down on a few points for a safe, secure fit.

It has an extended sleeve, about three inches longer than on my other mitts. This covers the one place I've burned myself while extracting things from the oven. I always wondered why "they" didn't make oven mitts a little longer to cover this vulnerable spot. Now I see that someone does. And it changes the experience so that I no longer have a multi-step process in removing things. I can just reach in and grab them.

This mitt is 100% cotton. All of my mitts are. I don't know if there are synthetic mitts, but I do know that microfiber (polyester) and heat don't mix. When microfiber melts, it will melt into your skin not just onto it. That's one reason I don't wear polyester. It's a really heavyweight cotton, and the mitt provides extra protection with silicone strips. Silicone insulates, which is one reason we use silicone caulk around doors and windows (if you've ever installed a door, you probably used a couple tubes of the stuff). A further advantage of those strips is enhanced grip. They run horizontally in rows on the glove, instead of vertically, further enhancing the grip factor by providing a sort of tread.

The mitt is also reversible; it fits the left or right hand. This is good, because I'm buying a second mitt so that I have a complete set. I won't have to worry about getting the wrong one and I won't have any "oops, wrong hand" hassle each time I put them on. Like my other mitts, this one has a hang loop. I currently don't use the loop on my other mitts because it's tiny. The loop on this mitt is actually designed to be used. So I can free up some drawer space by adding a couple of hooks to an appropriate spot on a cabinet or other place (haven't decided, yet).

Very rarely do I wash my mitts, although when I do wash I use a minimum of laundry detergent (which, as you may have guessed, is a premium type that is also fragrance-free, and devoid of petrochemicals). This being cotton, it's machine-washable. The instructions say to tumble dry low, but I will add that you should do that only for 10 minutes or so. Remove the mitts and let them air dry. Completely drying any fabric in a gas or electric dryer damages the fibers of the fabric.

I've got pants, bedding, shirts, towels, and other frequently used textiles that are over 20 years old and still look good. A front-loading washer does much less damage to clothes than a top-loader. Proper type and amount of soap ends a very common reason for short lifespan, and minimum dryer time eliminates another cause. These mitts will probably last me the rest of my life, so a very, very low cost per year for using them. They do cost a bit more than lesser mitts, but with the proper care just mentioned that cost becomes trivial.

The instructions also say not to use bleach or fabric softener. Actually, you should not ever use these products. Bleach is a chlorine product, and it has no place in the home unless your goal is to get cancer. Fabric softener is just a blend of rancid fat and petrochemicals. It doesn't actually soften fabrics, it coats them with a bacteria-harboring slime so you don't feel the dryer damage. A better solution is to dry fabrics properly and skip the "softener."

Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women
Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women
by Sarah Helm
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.50
45 used & new from $18.94

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I won't get into discussing which factions suppressed the accounts of the atrocities at this horrible place, as the author does, February 14, 2015
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Exhaustively researched, compassionately written, this book sheds light on a killing camp that has been obscured and hidden in the historical record. I won't get into discussing which factions suppressed the accounts of the atrocities at this horrible place, as the author does that quite well in the Epilogue. I do want to say something about the topic in general.

When I came across this book, I was surprised at the subtitle. Hitler had a concentration camp for women? Who knew? Apparently, not many people. And that has been the results of deliberate cover-ups and suppression by various factions. Their only real interest in the topic seems to have been keeping the survivors quiet (many were harassed by their own governments, after the war) was in their best interests. Yet, this camp was on par with Auschwitz. That view is supported by several facts, such as:

*Most of the female guards at Auschwitz came from Ravensbruck; in fact, all of them initially did when Auschwitz set up a female section.
*Prisoners from Auschwitz were sent to Ravensbruck to be gassed, then cremated.
*The head psychopaths at Auschwitz fled to Ravensbruck to continue their depravities there, after Auschwitz was closed down by Himmler.
*From Ravensbruck's early days, barbaric medical "experiments" were conducted on Ravensbruck prisoners. These "experiments" involved such mutilations as surgery to remove bones (collar bones, leg bones, etc.) and injecting women's legs with toxins that caused immense pain, suffering, and even loss of the legs.
*Women were flogged at Ravensbruck, just as men were flogged at Auschwitz. The flogging would consist of 25 lashes on their bare buttocks, often removing all of the skin. Later modifications of the procedure "improved" the brutality.
*Women were made to stand naked in freezing temperatures for hours at a time; those who fell were flogged or beaten, if they hadn't already died.
*Starvation was used as a killing method; the survivors were mere walking skeletons (one woman was noted as weighing 35 kilos, which is about 78 lbs). If you saw the Auschwitz film footage, you know what the Ravensbruck survivors looked like.

Some people harbor the delusion that Hitler's concentration camps (overseen by Himmler) were just labor camps and the prisoners didn't really suffer. This delusion contradicts the overwhelming evidence that these were torture sites and killing camps. Yes, some prisoners were used as labor in factories run by German corporations. But they were not well-fed and when they couldn't keep up with the heavy demands they were sent back to their prison camp and a new slave was sent in his or her place. The exhausted slave was classified as a "useless mouth" and usually shot. Sometimes, the slave would be beaten to death or poisoned or gassed, but a shot to the back of the neck was the most common method until late in the war.

The information in the preceding paragraph is beyond dispute. Anyone challenging it simply has not viewed the evidence. And that evidence is overwhelming. Arguments contradicting what we know about the prison camps are ignorant in the extreme, and they are as idiotic as arguing against the existence of gravity.

All of the factions on the Allied side agree that the prison camps were places of horror, torture, and death. The vast majority of German citizens also agree, and they consider it a national disgrace that this happened in their own country. What many in the USA do not know is that these camps were also places were regular German citizens, even those not considered Jews, were put into these camps. In many cases, the "reason" for their arrest and imprisonment was not even known.

Just as the Cheney-ites used "extraordinary rendition" to kidnap and torture American citizens, without formal arrest or a trial, so did the Nazis do this to their own people. But instead of flying them to a Turkish prison, they put them on trains and trucks to go to prisons on their own soil or in conquered nations under Nazi occupation. In both cases, rule of law was absent. And absent rule of law, evil flourishes.

And now, thanks to Sarah Helm and a vast number of contributors, the facts surrounding the horrors at Ravensbruck are beyond dispute and now have been brought into the light of day.

What do I mean by "vast number of contributors?" Normally in any scholarly work, and make no mistake this work adheres to high scholarly standards, you can gloss over the Acknowledgements. There's the typical fluff about thanking "my publisher, my wonderful editor," etc. And maybe there are a few people whose "invaluable help" made the book better and the whole thing takes up a page or two.

Not with this book. The acknowledgements take up six pages. Ms. Helm had quite a bit of input from quite a few people, many of whom apparently took a deep interest in the story this book had to tell. With all of those voices, it is hard to imagine how any factual errors or fiction posing as fact could make it into this book. The author obviously felt a sense of responsibility to get it right.

Not only did she have input from a wide array of subject matter experts, she also traveled and interviewed survivors in person. Her initial goal was to get to them all, but that proved impractical. She did get to many, and the number is impressive.

Then there's the backnotes section, which runs 43 pages (there are also notes at the bottom of many pages). Many of the quoted sources are actual Nazi files. Many are war crimes trial files and transcripts; keep in mind, those recorded actual witness testimony in court. She also gleaned information from Eastern nation government files, original personal letters and diaries, and reports from various reports and other sources. I did not find a single disreputable source; no references to the New York Times or other disinformation outlet.

The main body of the book runs 629 pages. I'd like to say, "I couldn't put it down," but actually I had to. It's the subject matter, not any defect in the book. And, of course, reading that many pages means more than one sitting.

The main body reads in chronological order, which is an amazing feat in itself. The author had to put hundreds of disparate bits together and get them in the right sequence. The process would be analogous to correctly solving a dozen 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzles that had been dumped into a single heap. The detail is rich, so the material is absorbing. But again, the subject matter requires taking breaks; it's just horrific stuff. It's reality, and what really happened was so bad. The author didn't sugar coat it. It is what it is. It needs to be read by a very wide audience. I think the ugliness is part of what makes this so compelling. It instructs us in our civic responsibilities, and in understanding how just how horribly wrong things can go when a people let a "leader" usurp rule of law.

I won't provide any type of synopsis of the body of the book, other than to say it described the hell that was Ravensbruck. While it's difficult emotionally to read this stuff, it's worse to simply ignore it. And the problem of ignoring it has existed for Ravensbruck for decades. Not because people didn't care, but because certain parties went to great lengths to suppress exposing what happened. And now Ms. Helm has exposed it.

In addition to the main body are the Prologue (8 pages, and very much worth reading) and the Epilogue (25 pages). Many times, an epilogue is just a wrap-up that ties up a few loose ends. It's often a yawner. That is not the case with this one. This Epilogue ties together what preceded it, and you'd expect that. But it also is a chapter in its own right. It is the only chapter that isn't part of the narrative of the events during the war. It covers the period after the war, including the author's own journey in exposing those war-time events.

In the Epilogue, the author makes several quotable points. Rather than repeat them all here, I will refer to just one (it was hard to pick one). The context is the author is discussing the absence of markers and memorials at a place where about 6,000 of the Ravensbruck women were murdered. She says, "What happened on this forsaken patch of land was Ravensbruck's most abominable crime. Yet, nobody passing by would ever know."

InterDesign Classico Suction Soap Dish, Bronze
InterDesign Classico Suction Soap Dish, Bronze
Price: $8.99
2 used & new from $8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great product, opens many new possibilities, January 24, 2015
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Three cheers....

This product sucks. It’s supposed to! And that’s what makes it a valuable addition to any shower space. I really like mine.

I had my doubts about the suction cup thing, having experienced many untimely releases of my radar detector or GPS while driving. No matter what you do, those things have a grip that is tenuous at best.

Wanting to give this the best chance of success, I cleaned an area with vinegar (I keep a spray bottle of white vinegar in my shower area). Then I moistened the cups and stuck this to the tile while following the suction cup lock procedure. I waited. It stayed.

Confident that a little pressure would pull it right off, I applied pressure. It still stayed. Hmm. I put a new bar of soap in it, figuring that would pull it off overnight. Still up when I got up. I added various other things over the next few days, but it stayed in place.

So now I have an additional little shelf that stays clean and that I didn’t have to drill holes to mount. Based on this experience, I’m looking at Interdesign’s other offerings to come up with a nice layout.

This or some of their other offerings would also work great in the kitchen. I can see all kinds of possibilities there. And I’m thinking of using their system to replace the “fly off unexpectedly”mounting options for my car.

The Complete Do-it-Yourself Manual Newly Updated
The Complete Do-it-Yourself Manual Newly Updated
by Editors Of Family Handyman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.45
49 used & new from $19.28

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is five stars, two-thumbs up, knock your socks off good., January 17, 2015
What an amazing resource this is.

I've been in or around the skilled trades my entire life (I don't mean just my adult life; my dad gave me tools for every birthday and Christmas starting with my first one). And for several years, I was a licensed Master Electrician. There aren't many "handy man" jobs that I can't do. I expected to learn a few things from this book, but even with that background I came across one gem after another that I hadn't known.

As a further note on my background, I've been writing and editing for the nation's leading electrical trade magazine since 1996. So when I come across any book or article related to the skilled trades, I'm as concerned with the quality of the writing as with the accuracy of the information. Additionally, for nearly as many years I've been working with the nation's leading developer of electrical exam preparation products and other electrical training materials; so I have a keen appreciation of the need for setting the tone. I've also written several guides and standards for the National Electrical Contractors Association, which serves the nation's electrical unions; there, a huge concern is addressing all areas of knowledge that an electrician will need on the job. This "completeness" is another aspect beyond the ones I've mentioned.

In this books, all of these (and others) have been done with a great deal of care to get it right. It is an understatement to say I am impressed.

Even the arrangement of the book reflects correctly "setting the tone." When I've tried to teach someone how to do a skilled trade task, I've often found the person didn't really understand the tools for doing the job. When I learned various skilled trades, my mentors made sure I understood how to correctly use the right tool for a particular job. That's one reason why, for example, I don't use screwdrivers as prybars and why I avoid using adjustable wrenches (rather than exact wrench).

This book starts off with four "general" chapters: Your Home, Hand Tools, Power Tools, and Fasteners & Adhesives. While I found myself mostly nodding in approval while reading these, I also found myself thinking, "Wow, I didn't know that. How helpful!". The book doesn't have formal Part 1, Part 2, etc. But you can consider these four chapters to constitute Part 1.

In keeping with this theme, Part 2 consists of chapters devoted to particular trades or groups of trades. It's important to note that this book does not pretend to qualify you as, for example, a Master Electrician. For each trade, it explains the "how to" that a reasonably competent do-it-yourselfer can be reasonably expected to do. There are some things you don't do without extensive qualifications. For example, you might run a new branch circuit in your home but you need to leave an electrical service panel change-out to a licensed electrician.

Here are those chapters and the trades they represent. The skill level is, in my opinion, toward the high end of apprentice.

*Plumbing. Obviously, plumber.
*Electricity. Obviously, electrician.
*Home climate. Insulator, HVAC tech, and system installer. This chapter shows you how to do relatively simple things like replace a water heater, insulate an attic, install a dehumidifier, and so forth. It also gives you a strong foundation in all concepts related to home climate equipment and systems. So while you aren't personally going to install a heat pump system you will understand what that entails and thus be able to select the right system for your home and competently oversee the installation.
*Interior repairs & improvements. Building maintenance inspector, drywaller, finish carpenter, flooring installer, window installer, door installer, and others. This chapter alone justifies the cost of the book.
*Painting and wallpapering. Painter, wall paper installer. I have seen hugely shoddy work by DIYs who don't have a clue. PLEASE, if you have not been trained in painting by a qualified person don't attempt a paint job. Here's a simple test. Real painters don't usually need masking tape. Do you know the technique for painting the top edge of a wall without getting paint onto the ceiling, using just the brush? If not, hire a painter. Wall paper jobs are notorious for degrading into nasty fights between spouses who didn't know what they were doing when they started. If you're married and want to avoid the cost of a divorce, don't attempt to save money by winging a wallpaper job. Hire it done, or take the time to understand how (this book explains it).

If the book were divided into parts, then Part 3 would cover not the tools (Part 1) or the skills/trades (Part 2), but the applications. What "application" means in construction parlance is where the work is done. The chapters:

*Exteriors. This covers the gamut, including ladder safety (each year, falls from ladders are at or near the top of OSHA's "accident cause" list). This is thorough, covering every aspect of exterior maintenance and repair. It's also an excellent resource if you're considering an upgrade project of some sort for your home's exterior. Even if you ultimately don't do the project yourself, you will understand what makes a job a quality job and you can manage the project to get the best result for the dollars you spend.
*Landscaping. This covers everything from various types of retaining walls to various types of fences, to decks, patios, and water gardens.
*Windows & Doors. Most homes don't have good windows or good doors. I have replaced all of the ones in my home. I didn't have an education on these seemingly simple product categories, and it turns out they are far from simple. I wish I'd had this book when doing those projects. That would have saved me a great deal of time and probably some money. Fortunately, it turns out that I made the right choices. I just wasn't efficient in getting there, due to a big knowledge gap I had to fill.

Part 4, if this book were arranged in parts, would be about types of materials:

*Concrete, Masonry, & Asphalt. Pretty self-explanatory. I've done some concrete work, and have built and poured footings. This books is spot-on, for that topic. My cousin worked as a mason for many years, but we didn't talk shop. So I can't comment on the accuracy of the masonry information but it sure sounds correct to me. Ditto for asphalt (except it was a childhood neighbor, not a cousin).
*Woodworking & Furniture Repair. I've done many projects in this area, and this book does show the correct methods. However, for most of this kind of work you need a bit of the artisan to get a good outcome. Or, in many cases, you need special equipment to do the work. For example, I had my dining table professionally refinished. I didn't have the space, for one thing. But if you read this chapter you'll probably guess at my other reasons for having it done. I have refinished many smaller items, however. I've also repaired couches, chairs, and other items. But there is a line I draw based on knowing what it takes to do the job right.
*Metals & Plastics. This is another area in which I have been extensively trained and have seen the most awful work done by the untrained DIY. Don't try to save money by "winging it." If you have a desire to this kind of work, you need the kind of "how to" that this chapter covers. And you'll need special tools.

The last two chapters are:

*Healthy Home & Emergency Repair. I've put significant resources into making my home a healthy home. When this topic comes up in conversation, people are often surprised at what this means. And they find out they live in a toxic home. But they don't have to. Read this chapter!
*Storage Projects. The first rule of storage is to get rid of things. There's a limit to that, especially if your home is a sort of base for projects, sports, hobbies, or even "make your living" work. I thought I had the storage thing nailed, but discovered some great tips in this chapter.

This book gets my highest recommendation. If you're a home owner, it's a "must read." If you're an apartment-dweller, in some ways it will be even more so (for reasons including those last two chapters, much of which you can apply even in an apartment setting).

Designers Edge L1923 16/3-Gauge Super Bright LED Handheld Work Light with Grounded Outlet, Red, 72-LED
Designers Edge L1923 16/3-Gauge Super Bright LED Handheld Work Light with Grounded Outlet, Red, 72-LED
Price: $30.60
11 used & new from $25.19

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding design, very useful, January 1, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a very handy work light. It replaced the old style automotive "trouble light" (so named, apparently, because they are so much trouble to use). I like the fact you can stand this up on its base or you can hold it by its ergonomic handle. It also hooks over things; in fact, I store it on the side of one of my rollaway toolboxes (yes, I have many tools) by hooking it on that box's hook strap.

The LED puts out a fair amount of light, yet uses little power. No hum and no flicker. Color rendition is fairly good.

Perhaps the best thing about this is you don't burn yourself on it the way you do with the old-fashioned trouble lights that, for some reason, manage to cook some portion of your hand no matter how careful you are. I can also put it away when done without waiting through the obligatory fire-prevention cooldown necessary for the traditional trouble light.

Designer's Edge put all sorts of nice touches on this. In addition to the features I already mentioned, it's well-constructed and looks like it's built to last forever. It has an aux AC outlet, same as your traditional trouble light. The shade actually does shade, which means you aren't blinded by this light at inopportune times. Perhaps best of all, when you switch it on it stays on until you switch it off. Something I hated about traditional trouble lights is no matter how many different brands I bought, I always had to fiddle with the switch while in the middle of doing something important.

This is really a task light. It's not going to provide general illumination, and it's not meant to. I have other portable lights I use for that. When combined with this light, they make for a safe, efficient lighting situation.

New Chapter Turmeric Force, 30 Liquid Vegetarian Caps
New Chapter Turmeric Force, 30 Liquid Vegetarian Caps
Price: $16.17
6 used & new from $11.17

5.0 out of 5 stars A great turmeric supplement, January 1, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It would seem impossible to come up with a turmeric supplement that really offers anything new. After all, turmeric is turmeric and other than varying the amount per capsule isn't it all the same? Not when you look at NewChapter Turmeric Force.

Just about everyone would benefit from a turmeric supplement, because relatively few of us cook with it. I normally don't use a turmeric supplement because I normally use turmeric in my cooking, so I consume it all the time. But this summer, I developed extensive inflammation due to some injuries and needed a way to fight that. Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties (along with many other benefits).

So I bought a bottle at my local grocery store. But these cost a lot for the amount of turmeric you get. A friend put me on to another brand available online, and that really lowered my per unit cost. So I thought that was the end of the story. Then I discovered NewChapter Turmeric Force. And it's not all about just getting the lowest cost per unit.

This is a liquid gel capsule, and the turmeric is mixed with extra-virgin olive oil, maltodextrin, and beeswax. The capsule itself is made from hypromelluose. The turmeric comes as two separate ingredients. One is "supercritical extract" from organic turmeric rhizome. The other is listed as "Turmeric (rhizome hydroethanolic extract). It appears that one extract uses an organic method (CO2 extraction) while the other uses a water-alcohol mixture (maybe that's also organic?).

Each capsule delivers 400 mg, 80 of which is derived with the organic (non-alcohol) method. That's according to the nutrition panel, but elsewhere on the box it says that with the full spectrum extracts one capsule contains 3,960 mg of turmeric. The capsule seems about 50% larger than a 1000 mg capsule from another manufacturer, so I really doubt it has 4 times the turmeric in it jammed in there with the olive oil and beeswax.

Something else is going on, and my guess is it's an efficacy thing. You would need 3,960 mg of turmeric via standard capsules to get the same effect as from one of these capsules. I did not contact the company to verify this.

This seems like an enormous difference, but we can see the same math at work with other supplements. For example, taking a D3 gel capsule renders only a fraction (I don't have the exact number, but I recall a 10:1 ratio) of the usable Vitamin D you get from the same amount taken in a sublingual spray. Another benchmark is the FundAminos supplement, which is 5 times as effective as the same amount of protein powder.

And there's the old joke that it takes 10 times as many government workers to do the same job as one private sector worker. While true in many cases, it is often decidedly untrue. It depends upon the agency and the workers involved. But the joke conveys the same idea.

NewChapter markets this as holistic, meaning the company uses the whole food. Thus you get not only the turmeric but the phytochemicals that you would get if you harvested the plant yourself and just ate it. Since turmeric is, despite the FDA's nonsensical protests to the contrary, a powerful anti-carcinogen (and the AMA-approved medical literature documents this), it follows that this whole food approach is of additional benefit.

Oddly enough, the box makes actual health claims even though the FDA, with its typical "headupbuttitis serve big Pharma" mentality likes to pretend reality is optional and has decreed turmeric is just a spice or supplement. Similar to how it's illegal, thanks to the FDA, to refer to Stevia as a sweetener even though it's something like 300 times sweeter than sugar. Maybe if everyone in the FDA simply quit their jobs and chose something useful to do with their lives, we'd all be better off.

The health claims include the inflammation response (also heavily documented) and support of cardio and liver health (I'm not aware if the AMA-approved literature documents these also). It leaves out a few things, such as the fact that in India turmeric has been used as an antiseptic for wounds for over 7,000 years. Or that peer-reviewed oncology papers have shown that when you combine turmeric with black pepper, the anti-cancer effects actually multiply rather than merely add. But with the FDA not wanting real science to appear on turmeric labels I guess they didn't dare include this helpful information.

The packaging also says it's 100% vegetarian, but I don't know of any turmeric supplements that contain animal products.

Just to bring you full-circle on my reason for supplementing, turmeric greatly reduced the inflammation and the injuries are healing nicely. But, of course, it wasn't the turmeric because according to the reality-distortion experts at the FDA--medical labs don't know what they're talking about, biochemists are sadly mistaken, and 7,000 years of empirical evidence (people in India have used it as medicine, quite effectively, for all that time) is all wrong.

GE Lighting 14203 Energy-Smart LED 11-watt, 800-Lumen A19 Bulb with Medium Base, Soft White, 1-Pack
GE Lighting 14203 Energy-Smart LED 11-watt, 800-Lumen A19 Bulb with Medium Base, Soft White, 1-Pack
Price: $11.10
13 used & new from $7.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great product, highly recommended, December 21, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When I need to replace existing lamps, this is the one I will buy for my suitable home applications (not all home applications are suitable). It's an amazing product.

Before I get into the actual review, I want to take a moment to give the reader some valuable background. For nearly twenty years now, I've been writing for electrical trade magazines and electrical industry Websites. The target audience is electricians and electrical engineers. I'm regarded as a subject matter expert among this already expert audience.

When the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) was introduced, I read the hype and thought it sounded great. But upon actual investigation, I found this device actually causes a net loss of energy efficiency in the typical home. Just a thumbnail of the reasons why: They lower the Power Factor on your entire distribution (if you use enough of them) and cause wave distortion. This means, for example, your refrigerator consumes more energy (and will not last as long). Of course, you will get a negligible effect if you are using just one CFL. But this compromise technology (cramming a fluorescent ballast into a tiny light bulb base space) was marketed to encourage people to replace all of their lamps, and the combined load if they're all running can present power quality issues serious enough to cause these sorts of problems.

I thought LEDs might be a good solution, and sure enough they came to the marketplace. But one problem is the light emitting diode is very directional, so for general lighting you'd need some serious lens technology. I did not think a direct screw-in replacement would ever be available, or if someone made it that it would be very good without a seriously high price tag. There are technical reasons for thinking this, and GE has proven with this product that those reasons can be overcome. The price on this is surprisingly low.

One reason I've stayed with my incandescent lamps is I have them on dimmers; this is a great way to save energy. I also use a little-known feature called "the off switch," which is a fantastic way to save energy. Simply turning lights off when not using them would dramatically cut many people's electric bills.

Though I liked LED, "everyone knows" you can't put a screw-in (incandescent lamp replacement) on a dimmer if it's LED. That's because the actual diodes operate within a range of 3V to 5V (depending on which diodes are selected for that lamp, and it's typically 5V). This is the same voltage you find coming out of a computer power supply. Take a look at the brick on a laptop system, or look inside a desktop. This lamp is dimmable. I'm thoroughly impressed; let me tell you why.

The LED gets its 5V the same what these larger systems do: stepdown transformer, rectifier circuit, and maybe additional filtering circuitry to clean things up. That power supply is designed to operate on 120V. If you put it on a dimmer, you mess things up. Unless you have a cleverly designed power supply. The fact this lamp is dimmable is a huge selling point.

What about light output? GE says 800 lumens. That appears to be correct; I compared the output by eye to that of other lamps with a similar output (sorry, I don't have a light meter). And the light is diffuse, which is another important characteristic. Color rendition is a bit off from what you'd get from an incandescent, but better than what you get from fluorescent (compact or not).

Now, something that is a huge drawback of the CFL is you get wave distortion. It's not serious, but it's there. Use enough CFLs, and it could become "interesting" from an equipment failure standpoint. Generally, you want to avoid loads that distort your power.

Using a Fluke 123 Scopemeter, I was unable to detect any difference on the supply line with this lamp on versus having it off. One reason for that is it draws so little current. That's also one reason you need a huge number of these lamps to appreciably lower the Power Factor of the supply. While a whole-house trade-out with CFLs could do that, it's really impossible with the LED lamp.

This particular lamp is a 60W, A-19 replacement that provides 800 lumens while consuming a miserly 10.5W. Note that most of this power is not consumed by the diodes themselves, but by the power supply that's in the base. And, as I said, you can put these on a standard dimmer. I would be careful about using these with recessed lighting fixtures, however. The reason is that base will get hot; this heat is one of the challenges with LEDs. That's one reason you cannot use this lamp in an enclosed luminaire. For example, if you have a ceiling light that is fitted with a lens that fits against the ceiling, that's an enclosed luminaire. This lamp needs airflow to its base.

The "bulb" part will stay cool. You can run this for an hour and unscrew it by hand. The bulb stays cool because there is so little waste heat coming off those LEDs. The cool bulb is one reason LED lighting cannot be used on air traffic control towers and should not be used for traffic signals. Think about what happens in an ice storm. Those bulbs will not melt the ice, and the light will be greatly obscured.

I also advise against using this in a bathroom (moisture could be a problem, but if you don't take steamy showers then no problem) and against using it for an outdoor floodlight (it's not listed for wet locations).

The best engineering-oriented solution is to rip out your walls and rewire your home for all LED-lighting. This will really integrate LED technology and provide all kinds of design opportunities. But few people have the money or the patience for such a project. For a new home where you can control the design, this can make sense. For an existing home, it's not an option. Nor is it an option for apartment dwellers.

A simple, inexpensive screw-in replacement, however, is a sensible option that anyone can take advantage of. And that's what this product provides.

The End of Employer-Provided Health Insurance: Why It's Good for You and Your Company
The End of Employer-Provided Health Insurance: Why It's Good for You and Your Company
by Paul Zane Pilzer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.08
58 used & new from $6.98

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "Must Read", December 21, 2014
Every employee, employer, and small business owner (even if not an employer) should read this book. If you do not have a copy, you need to get one.

Here's what it's about. The authors make a clear and compelling case that an employer-provided medical insurance plan is not good for anyone but the insurance companies. The fact that this insurance harms employers and employees has, actually, been the case for quite some time. The Unaffordable Care Act (UCA), however, makes this faulty product an even worse deal. This book is a comprehensive guide for employers to offer an alternative to an employer-provided medical insurance plan and it also helps individuals understand how to get started on signing up for an individual insurance plan under the UCA.

Personally, I found this book really cuts through the clutter and confusion surrounding how to respond to the UCA. The authors make it clear what to do and why. The book even motivated me to actually go online and (try to) find what my insurance rates would be with the UCA subsidy. Unfortunately, the Website doesn't work; after multiple attempts to get this information, I finally gave up. Despite that, it is clear to me how to proceed if the UCA exchange thing ever makes financial sense for me and the Website ever gets fixed so it provides the information. Previously, I had no idea what to do to even start the sign-up process (I hadn't made any effort to find out).

I don't want this review to get bogged down by addressing this book's language issues early on, so that commentary comes after the main body of the review. There is also a misconception about the UCA; I will go into that after the main body of the review, also.

This book shows why employer-provided insurance is no bargain, rate-wise. In fact, the rates are vastly inflated over what an individual would pay. Most employees don't understand that their paycheck is only part of the total cost their employer pays for their services. An employer can pay so much for an employee to do a given job; the total is the burden rate and it's much larger than the employee's wage. Total costs of paying for an employee include all of the payroll taxes (among other things). Add in a big wallop for the "employer paid" portion of jacked-up insurance rates, and the employee must work for much less take-home pay thanks to this "free" benefit paid by the employer.

There are other problems with employer-provided insurance, also. And they have been around for a very long time. I remember one situation in which a coworker was badly treated by our boss. He got all the sh** jobs, and often toiled long after everyone else had gone home. Not only that, the company never gave him a raise and the wage gap compared to his coworkers had grown to be huge. I asked him why he put up with this, and he said he could not afford to quit because he needed the medical insurance to cover his terminally ill wife.

If only he'd had private insurance, but no company calling itself an insurance company would give them a policy. One of the few good things about the UCA is it ended the "pre-existing condition" excuse for insurers to play the insurance game selectively.

Yes, I realize we all pay higher rates if people with illness are covered. But I see that as a cost of participating in a system that is supposed to spread risk and cost. This selective insurance gaming should never have been permitted under law, and it's immoral in the extreme. You are either an insurer or you are not; picking and choosing makes you a predator rather than an insurer.

The authors pointed out that with employer-provided insurance, the insurance companies insure all employees regardless of "pre-existing conditions" so this seems to solve the predator problem. But one catch is the employer's rate (and thus the rate to the employees) is affected negatively by factors such as how much is paid out in claims. Another catch is many people can not afford to change jobs. Those who lose their jobs find it harder to find work and, prior to the UCA, impossible to find an individual insurance plan.

The authors (correctly) tell us that employer-provided medical insurance emerged as a consequence of the 1040 tax system. That alone should set off alarm bells about such insurance. Any time there's a 1040 angle, there's a door for the criminals at the Institute of Reprobates and Sociopaths to conduct crimes for their personal enrichment and/or engage in other abuses.

Did you know that the federal governments own auditor (the GAO) found that employees of this agency spend half their office time on p*rn and gambling sites rather than (mis)administering the 1040 Tax Code? Toss in the fact that they find time to engage in the Hoyt Fiasco, the Amcor Atrocity, and other famous scams, and you can see that the vast majority of Institute employees are not necessary. Massive layoffs there would be a very good thing. But it doesn't happen and now these reprobates will have unfettered access to your personal medical information thanks to the UCA. It will be interesting to see what mischief they can get by with, there.

Back to the employer-provided insurance. It was a way for employers to provide "tax-free" (free of 1040 tax, anyhow, but still ultimately subject to a myriad of taxes) compensation to employees in the form of medical insurance benefits. At first, it was basic insurance. But to make it an increasingly valuable benefit, more and more things were larded into it. Costs, naturally, skyrocketed. The obvious solution would be to end the 1040 tax system; this system produces a net loss in revenue for the federal government, and it should have been ended decades ago. Creating the UCA to address this 1040-created medical insurance cost problem is like using boiling water to clean a baby. It's just not a good solution.

But it is the solution we are stuck with, at least for now.

After reading this book, I'm not sure why any employer would continue with employer-provided medical insurance. The authors make a clear and compelling case that it's much better to go another route. And what is that route? A defined contribution program.

Note of disclosure, here. The authors are in the business of working with companies to create such programs for their employees. Specifically, that business is Zane Benefits. So there is probably some bias in the viewpoints of the authors, but I really cannot detect that in this book. I think they gave this a fair treatment. I also think their work is the perfect background, because they are subject matter experts. Because they are SMEs and work with people in this space, they are highly qualified to provide an easy to understand, step by step guide to implementation. And this is exactly what they have produced.

This book has some minor flaws (see below), but overall it is a "must read". While many people hold out hope that the Republocrats will repeal the UCA, I have learned not to expect anything from those people. The Ds and Rs differ about as much as the Crips and the Bloods or the Genovese Family versus the Gambino Family, and are in the same line of work (organized crime) except for much more money than their private sector counterparts. That means we need to know how to play the cards we're dealt in this rigged game. This book provides valuable guidance on how to play those cards.

This book consists of three Parts:

Part I. Lays the groundwork for Parts I and II. Really good info here, don't skip over it.
Part II. Guides the consumer on how to navigate the new medical insurance market.
Part III. Guides the employer on transitioning to a defined plan model.

The Executive Summary is most enlightening. I can tell quite a bit of thought went into those 4.2 pages to crystallize key concepts and give the reader a good understanding from which to proceed with the rest of the book. Reading it again after reading the book is also helpful. I have a similar impression of the Introduction (3.2 pages). The body of the book runs 197.2 pages. There are two useful Appendices; A is for the consumer and B is for the employer. Readers might be taken aback at how sparse the References section is, but remember that the authors are subject matter experts. Not much academic research is really needed. If you read, say, "How to Drive a Car," by Mario Andretti, would you expect a large reference section? I think not.

Language issues

Language is important and it affects how we think; this concept has been illustrated nicely by Bradbury and Orwell. For the purposes of this book, the reader can understand what's being said despite the language issues. I don't see any deliberate obfuscation. So no need to mention these gaffes at the outset, but it is important to mention them.

Has anyone ever seen a health insurance policy? Personally, I have not. What do you do, file a claim if you forget to pick up broccoli to go along with your kale and bok choy when you go shopping? Do you file a claim if your body fat percentage climbs to 8%? Just to be clear, health care consists of the lifestyle choices you make to take care of your health. Less than 10% of Americans make lifestyle choices conducive to health; you can verify this by simply observing what people put in their shopping carts at the grocery store. Very little in the way of fruits and vegetables (produce), but lots of products containing neurotoxin-contaminated corn syrup, excitotoxins, and carcinogens.

People make profoundly bad choices, because we have a disease lifestyle culture. Even our language includes such health lifestyle terms as "health nut" when clearly it is the disease choosers are are the nuts.

Because the popular lexicon misuses "health" in "health care", I think primarily due to the language abuse foisted by the medical insurance companies, when "health care" is used in a discussion of "medical care" we generally assume the speaker/writer means the latter and not the former. The goal of this book was not to provide English lessons, but to help individuals and employers deal with the disaster known as the Unaffordable Care Act (aka, Obummercare).

Another language problem in this book is the grammar. The misplaced modifiers cause the reader to have to stop and interpret the intended meaning, which is quite different from what the authors actually said. The constant misuse of "who" as an object also makes for mental pauses. I hope a future edition will have good copyediting that corrects these problems.


The major misconception with the Unaffordable Care Act is embodied in its language-abuse name. It's a tradition in CONgress to name federal programs such that the name states the opposite of the real world effects of the program. The "Affordable" in the name of this Act takes that to a whole new level.

For the typical citizen/victim of this illegal scam (the Supreme Court's ruling definitively showed it was illegal, but the decision delivered by the Court did not follow from that ruling and actually contradicted it), it's a financial negative. A good analogy is, "That's a red, eight-sided sign with the the following letters in white: S, T, O, and P. But it's not a stop sign, it means Go." Truly crazy, but it's the reality. Intimidating or buying nine people into producing something like this is not all that difficult.

Pleas note that I'm not panning medical care reform (this wasn't reform). We badly need such a thing. I am just panning just this particular scam.

On the surface the UCA does make medical insurance more affordable, and for many individuals it actually does. But when you do all the math, you find that a $1200 annual subsidy does not make up for a $10,000 annual wage loss. Ask the millions of people who lost their full-time jobs how that's working out for them now that they set their winter thermostats to 55 degrees and still can't make ends meet.

The UCA, even with its subsidies, forces many formerly insured individuals to drop their medical insurance and pay the IRS fine. After paying for food and shelter and other basic living expenses, there is only so much money left. Shelling out $200 or $300 a month for insurance just is not an option because the money just is not there. And with a $6,000 deductible, the insurance does not protect the insured from financial catastrophe anyhow.

Another issue is the fact that the Institute of Reprobates and Sociopaths is involved. Any prudent taxpayer has a separate checking account just for paying the 1040 taxes; this way, if some Institute employee launches a baseless attack (they are known for shooting first and ascertaining actual tax liability later, if at all), only the small amount in that checking acct is at risk. The Institute has to get a court order for access to other accounts, unless the taxpayer is foolish enough to volunteer that info. But now with the UCA, these criminals have access to an entirely new class of information that formerly they didn't have automatic access to. You will need a separate checking account just to pay your monthly UCA payments and that's a lot of cash withdrawals and deposits every month. It remains to be seen how manageable this is. This one factor alone prevents me from going the UCA route.

Regardless of its obvious illegality (on multiple fronts), the UCA is now something we must deal with. We can learn how to accept the crumbs that it offers in place of the loaf it takes away, and at least get something back. This book can really help.

Pure Protein Nutrition Bar, Dark Chocolate Coconut, 1 box containing 6 Bars
Pure Protein Nutrition Bar, Dark Chocolate Coconut, 1 box containing 6 Bars

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best bars on the market today, December 14, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This bar is among the best available. And it has a pleasant taste.

I've been using some type of protein bar, meal bar, or nutrition bar for more than 20 years. These products are not ideal, nutritionally. But they are easily portable and that's what makes them great if they also pass certain other tests.

These types of bars are to healthy meals what mobile phones are to desktop systems. That's a very good analogy. Think of how much easier it is to do most computing tasks on a desktop rather than a phone. What makes the phone useful is you can take it with you. If somehow you could make your 24-inch monitor and your powerful desktop fit into your pocket, then you wouldn't want to use the mobile phone. Or if you're sitting in front of that computer, the phone just can't compare (for most functions).

One limitation of the bars is that to stabilize the protein, it's usually hydrolyzed. If not stabilized by that process, another process is used and no matter the process there is some degradation of the protein. This is the trade-off made to have portable protein. Try carrying a glass of milk around at room temperature for a day and you'll understand why this trade-off is necessary. It's a worth-while trade-off if you are traveling or otherwise away from your normal sources of quality nutrition and need something. One situation where this type of bar is indispensible is air travel. Airlines don't, as far as I know, offer food fit for human consumption. You have to bring your own, and this bar is the best solution available.

The main problem with these types of bars generally is they are stuffed with corn syrup and other toxins, plus most have sugar and other garbage added. The reason for this is to make the bars taste better to those whose normal diet is limited to the normal two flavors that appeal to the typical American palate (over-sweetened and rancid fats).

I've looked at the bars from every major supplement manufacturer who offers them, this poisoning of the product is standard practice. Not only does it make the bars addictive to the nutritionally-depraved, it also makes them cheaper to produce so the manufacturer's profits are larger. I don't understand why people are so willing to throw away their training just to ride the sugar train, but that is often the case. Not just with bars, but also with meal shakes and other supplements whose ingredients panel should have a big skull and crossbones on it.

Now with that background in mind, I will say that Pure Protein is a brand I trust because they have never joined the "debauchery of the nutrition bars" insanity. They are among the very, very few who make a good nutrition bar. I used one of their products for many years until they reluctantly discontinued it due to low sales. I wrote them about this and their response was they felt they had a great product, but the feedback they got was people didn't like the taste. That problem goes back to what I said earlier about those two tastes that the typical American palate is so limited to.

IMO, if you find a nutritionally good bar and the taste doesn't fit your conditioned sugar OCD for food, then the solution is to switch to a more sensible, more inclusive diet. You'll find that the bars will taste just fine.

Bill Phillips famously dinned protein bars back in his EAS days, when that company was struggling with the taste vs. safety thing in its own product offerings. He said while a bar doesn't have to "taste like kerosene" it's never going to be really delicious if it's a bar that supports the goal of having your best body. EAS made some good bars, and the taste was just fine to me. But they didn't taste like Hostess Ding Dongs or whatever it is the sugar-addicted expect "nutrition" to taste like.

So what about this particular bar? In keeping with its long tradition, Pure Protein made sure this bar is actually safe to eat. I reviewed the ingredients panel before ordering these, and was not surprised that this company yet again respects the bodies of its customers with yet another good product formulation.

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