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takingadayoff "takingadayoff" RSS Feed (Las Vegas, Nevada)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

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Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-four Books That Can Change Lives.
Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-four Books That Can Change Lives.
by David Denby
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.26
33 used & new from $13.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Back to School, February 2, 2016
David Denby returned to college as a middle aged man in 1991 to check on the state of the literature in education. He wrote a fascinating book on the experience called Great Books. Now in his seventies, he's gone back to see how literature is holding up in the high schools. This time though, he's only observing, not participating. He wants to see for himself if literature has any place at all in high school anymore. He worries that the internet has made our children stupid. Apparently this is a worry that every generation has -- will Television destroy our brains? Will movies and cars and telephones destroy conversation and writing and deep thinking? The answer is yes, but only if we let it. And there's no evidence that the young people Denby observed are letting that happen to them.

He sits in on for months at a time to observe English classes in action in a couple of schools, watching several teachers wrangle groups of fifteen year-olds into thoughtful, inquisitive, and skeptical readers. They become Reading Teams in a way, working together to analyze the books. It's an impressive project, with the students, some reluctant at first, becoming first rate deconstructionists. The teachers are real superstars, putting incredible effort into making the books relevant to the students, not allowing anyone to phone in their efforts.

That's the real lesson of Lit Up, I think, that if you find good teachers, support them with resources and encouragement, and not hamper them with rigid mandates and excessive testing requirements, you have a good chance of turning out students who can think for themselves and want to learn more. There's hope for the future!


The Seaweed Bath Co Balancing Eucalyptus and Peppermint Argan Conditioner
The Seaweed Bath Co Balancing Eucalyptus and Peppermint Argan Conditioner
Price: $12.89
6 used & new from $12.89

4.0 out of 5 stars Effective Conditioner With a Minty Scent, January 30, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Starting with the bottle -- I love it! It has a retro look, although it looks like glass, it's plastic, so don't worry about dropping it in the shower. The conditioner is creamy and does a good job of taming hair. My flyaway hair is behaving well after a week of using Seaweed Bath Conditioner. I am not a big fan of the minty smell though, it's pretty strong and very minty, although it usually fades once it's been rinsed out. Occasionally I get a whiff of it during the day and it just isn't my favorite scent for hair products.


Mead Cambridge Business Notebook, Ruled, 48 Sheets, 8 1/2" x 5 1/2", Trucco, Pink Floral (59032)
Mead Cambridge Business Notebook, Ruled, 48 Sheets, 8 1/2" x 5 1/2", Trucco, Pink Floral (59032)
Price: $11.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect as a Travel Journal, January 25, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It's been years since I kept a travel journal when taking a trip, but this notebook has inspired me to take it up again. It's a thin lightweight medium format book with a pretty durable cover, all of which makes it perfect for throwing in the backpack. It's attractive and it will be nice to return to over the years to remember the name of that restaurant or what exactly that interesting person on the train said. Now the search for the perfect pen to pair it with.


Smead Stick-N-Store Poly Pouch, 6 x 11-1/4 Inches, 5 per Pack (68180)
Smead Stick-N-Store Poly Pouch, 6 x 11-1/4 Inches, 5 per Pack (68180)
Price: $7.53
9 used & new from $6.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Simple But Brilliant!, January 11, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Great idea! So far our family has used these clear plastic pouches to carry art supplies to class, file tax receipts, and for a road trip. The road trip involved marking the day's journey on the AAA map and storing it in the pouch along with tolls for bridges and a list of possible places to stop with addresses and phone numbers. All in one pouch and stuck on the dash for easy access. Worked pretty well for a weekend trip. Really like the option of sticking the pouch to a folder or other surface or just stowing it in a backpack.


The Coyote's Bicycle: The Untold Story of 7,000 Bicycles and the Rise of a Borderland Empire
The Coyote's Bicycle: The Untold Story of 7,000 Bicycles and the Rise of a Borderland Empire
by Kimball Taylor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.84

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just a Quick Bike Ride Away, January 9, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Journalist Kimball Taylor specializes in sports, so it isn't surprising that he would zero in on the bicycles to get his story going. Mysterious heaps of abandoned bicycles kept turning up in odd places in the Southwest and it turns out that they were being used by migrants to get across the border region between Mexico and the U.S. Not only is it faster than on foot, the bicycles are less likely to set off alarms.

The story of the migrants is compelling and told in an even-handed way that doesn't judge the people or the laws, but Taylor kept coming back to the bicycles rather than sticking with the migrants. Somehow a history of bicycles seemed to get in the way of the larger story. Then there was the digression into a program in which American soldiers are trained in urban warfare using movie sets constructed by Hollywood specialists. It's an interesting story but had nothing to do with the border crossings, and only a little to do with the bicycles.

I'm not sure if this should have been a shorter, more focused book, or perhaps three separate articles, but as it is, The Coyote's Bicycle is a bit frustrating to read as it hops from one topic to another and back.


Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy in France
Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy in France
by Thad Carhart
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wine on the Doorstep, December 31, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These Americans in France/Italy books can go either way -- entirely charming, or insufferable. Finding Fontainebleau fits into the charming side. Author Thad Carhart's father was stationed near Paris in the mid fifties in the U.S. Air Force. Thad was about four when the family arrived and about seven when they returned to the States. This was the perfect age to soak up French language and culture and quite an interesting time to be an American in France.

The book combines his memories of those days, some history of the previous residents of the Chateau at Fontainebleue, and some special insights from the man overseeing the restorations and upkeep of the Chateau. For me, the story of Carhart's family and their adventures was the charming part. Whenever I reached a chapter on history or renovations, I hurried through to get to the next adventure from the 1950s.

Of course it was amusing to read of Carhart's brothers and sisters and their childish antics, but the best parts were about his parents, Americans who were sophisticated enough to get on with the stylish French, but adventurous enough to take five kids camping across Europe. And France was (and still is) not like anywhere else -- Carhart recalls the gent who delivered bottles to their doorstep every morning -- of wine, not milk.


BLU Dash X Plus -  Unlocked 5.5" Smartphone - US GMS - Black
BLU Dash X Plus - Unlocked 5.5" Smartphone - US GMS - Black
Price: $96.97
11 used & new from $91.45

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unlocked -- The Only Way to Fly, December 29, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Very impressive! An inexpensive unlocked smartphone that has a bright sharp screen and graphics, a decent camera, all the bells and whistles you'd expect on a smartphone. Out of the box, I popped in a sim card I bought at Target for a discount carrier, was signed up in a few minutes and all connected in no time. The phone comes with all the accessories -- recharging cable, adapter plug, earbuds with microphone, even a cheap rubber-ish cover and a screen protector overlay. It's a little light on the instructions, but you can either use the included help app or go online to watch videos and ask questions. It isn't that complicated, and this is only my second smartphone. It's really very hard for me to continue to pine for an iPhone when this Blu Dash costs so much less and for most people would be quite enough cellphone.


Dark Corners: A Novel
Dark Corners: A Novel
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, Unpleasant, and Violent -- Loved It!, December 18, 2015
This is it -- the last Ruth Rendell book. True to form, it's short on physical action but long on psychological drama and atmosphere. I love the London setting, in the suburbs for the most part, and most of the characters are young, in their late twenties. The story ends a bit abruptly, but not before all the loose ends are tied up. It just seemed a bit sudden and I wondered if that was how Rendell intended it to finish up. In any case, I was as drawn into it as with most of her others, and wanted to read it in one sitting. If there's anyone who can step into the spot Rendell has left, it is J.K. Rowling, with her Cormorant Strike mysteries (written as Robert Galbraith).
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 6, 2016 11:50 AM PST


Smead SuperTab® Organizer File Folder, Oversized 1/3-Cut Tab, Letter Size, Assorted Colors, 3 per Pack (11989)
Smead SuperTab® Organizer File Folder, Oversized 1/3-Cut Tab, Letter Size, Assorted Colors, 3 per Pack (11989)
Price: $7.92
15 used & new from $5.71

5.0 out of 5 stars Good for Tax Documents, December 18, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Always looking for a way to streamline tax season and these folders are coming in handy. Different colors are an excellent way of keeping receipts and documents easy to find and these folders slip into a file drawer or a binder pocket easily. They are good quality as well and will last years before they start to look frayed around the edges.


Inventology: How We Dream Up Things That Change the World
Inventology: How We Dream Up Things That Change the World
by Pagan Kennedy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.46
47 used & new from $12.05

4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring Stories of the Craft of Inventing, December 13, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In a blend of social history, biography, psychology, and anecdotes, journalist Pagan Kennedy tells the past, present, and possible future of Inventology. Is there a way to teach people to be good inventors? Can we break down what goes into successful inventing so that we can reproduce it?

Kennedy starts by telling stories about how the sippy cup was invented, the wheeled suitcase, and several others. She goes into the labs where people are tasked with solving specific problems, and she speculates how we can tackle current and future problems by studying successful inventors.

For me, the stories were the most vivid, the research less so. I especially enjoyed the story of Soviet (Azerbaijani) science fiction writer Genrich Altshuller. He actually started a school of what Kennedy would call Inventology, a kind of technical workshop like the art workshops of Renaissance Italy that turned out skilled painters, sculptors, and even inventors like Leonardo da Vinci.

So, is it possible to teach and learn to invent? Yes! Best learned when young, it's a combination of getting lots of hands on experience putting things together and taking them apart, and thinking creatively, especially spatially.


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