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Woods 2001 Outdoor 24-Hour Mechanical Outlet Timer with Light Sensor
Woods 2001 Outdoor 24-Hour Mechanical Outlet Timer with Light Sensor
Price: $10.78
21 used & new from $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Like everyone says: it's great!, January 24, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is exactly as promised - it works beautifully to switch something on at dusk, leave it on for 2, 4, 6, or 8 hours (or all night) and then turns it off. It'll take a 3 prong plug. There are cheaper models but this is the one to get - thanks to all the other reviewers who were spot on in their reviews!

The only problem I can see is that you can't reverse the switch (on during the day, off at night).

Lucky Alan: And Other Stories
Lucky Alan: And Other Stories
by Jonathan Lethem
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.60
39 used & new from $13.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Original but short and available elsewhere, January 24, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a somewhat short but often entertaining collection of short stories by Jonathan Lethem, who is known for his astute and sometimes surreal fiction. If you're a fan of Haruki Murakami, you'll probably really enjoy most of these stories. I say most because there was at least one pretty weak story (The Dreaming Jaw; The Salivating Ear).

All of these 9 stories have been published before, 5 in the New Yorker, 1 in the Paris Review, 1 in Harper's, and the last two in one-off hard-to-track-down volumes.

The only common element in these stories is Lethem's ability to build a world for his characters in a very short amount of time. He's clearly comfortable writing about New York City but also surburban California. His characters inhabit slightly odd places (but nothing as odd as Gun with Occasional Music), and get into some strange situations, but Lethem is at his best when he's describing the almost real oddities of life, as experienced by the stranger-than-real characters he develops so effortlessly.

American Educational 7-771000 Flat Bottom Boiling Flask, Bomex Brand Clear Borosilicate Glass, 1000mL Capacity
American Educational 7-771000 Flat Bottom Boiling Flask, Bomex Brand Clear Borosilicate Glass, 1000mL Capacity
Price: $17.48
7 used & new from $9.71

2.0 out of 5 stars Expensive price for a SINGLE flask - not six as promised, January 14, 2015
I should clarify that I really like the SINGLE flask that I received. The description that Amazon offers this flat bottomed flask under is "pack of six." The price is expensive for one flask and cheap for six, but I wanted six, as it was originally listed (for over a year) in the description.

If you order this product, please be aware that you will only get ONE flask, not six, no matter what the description promises.

The flask itself is really quite good. It is Bomex glass, which means it should withstand direct heat from an open gas flame - it should be safe for your gas stovetop, if you want to test your luck. Bomex is a cheaper copy of Pyrex and Kimax glass, both of which I would have preferred. The flask also stands up and is reasonably stable, thanks to its flat bottom. You will not need a tripod/clamp to use this flask.

The Innovator's Hypothesis: How Cheap Experiments Are Worth More than Good Ideas
The Innovator's Hypothesis: How Cheap Experiments Are Worth More than Good Ideas
by Michael Schrage
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $9.95
54 used & new from $4.88

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Go beyond thinking less and doing more by reading this thoughtless book..., January 11, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I had hoped that this book wouldn't be like every other business book out there: one short idea that is somehow stretched, mostly through innovative use of 'chapters,' into book length, when in reality it would have been more efficient (but less lucrative) to just tweet the idea in the first place.

Unfortunately, this book has exactly the same flaws as most business books:
1) A single central theory that really needs only a napkin to explain, yet gets a whole book
2) No actual analysis or evidence to support the central theory, but a whole lot of marginally relevant anecdotes

In this case, the book's central theory is that implementation is worth more than the foundational good idea. How much more? A lot more - apparently, you don't even need the initial idea. Wow! What insight the author is demonstrating! I almost swooned. The problem with this, of course, is that you can't just have an idea OR implementation - you need both. Maybe I'm over-intellectualizing this, which the author is clearly not a fan of. In fact, he devotes five pages of his precious allocation (a whole chapter!) to bash a dead economist (Keynes), claiming to agree with Orwell that "some ideas are so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them." Sadly, Mr. Schrage, there are some ideas that are even more absurd, like the idea that you don't need ideas. Or have you tried building a house with no actual foundation? While we're at it, why not pick on someone who can defend themselves, instead of a dead guy?

There are also problems with the implementation portion of this book. First, it takes a while to get there. Second, it's so general as to be useless. Here's my evidence: The book promises much early on but struggles to get to the point. On p 47 he states "the best way ... to advance the boldest ambitions is through the ... most fundamental experiments. This book explains how." Great! Except it doesn't. Instead, the entire next chapter is on how much the author enjoys hobnobbing with the wise and witty Warren Buffet. After another 20 pages of hero worship (Bezos, Jobs, etc, who are definitely not known for their good ideas), we get to the author's much ballyhooed "5x5 experimentation methodology," the author's recipe for implementation. Well, not quite. First, there's a lengthy explanation of what the framework is not.

At this point, we're about halfway through the book and losing patience fast. [Quick aside: Schrage, you told us a good idea should be tweetable. Well, after 80 pages, you still haven't got to the point. Instead you're outlining your "80/20/20 vision." Great, now you sound like one of those football coaches telling us all to give 120% effort.]

Ah! Here it is: your tweetable idea: "give a diverse team of 5 people no more than 5 days to come up with a portfolio of 5 business experiments that cost no more than $5000 (each) and take no longer than 5 weeks to run." Brilliant! Pilot experiments for all! Oh, wait, we're already doing those. Never mind.

Now that I've given away the thrilling conclusion of this book, you can decide if you want to read the remaining diatribe on things that even NASA figured out in the 1980s ("innovators ... go beyond throwing a prototype against a wall to see if it sticks." and "Low hanging fruit tastes delicious."). If so, by all means pay this author for the privilege of reading his big idea. I won't even be donating this book to a prison.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 31, 2015 9:35 PM PST

OXO Good Grips Extendable Tub and Tile Scrubber
OXO Good Grips Extendable Tub and Tile Scrubber
Price: $12.99
4 used & new from $12.99

2.0 out of 5 stars I was really disappointed with this product, December 8, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was really disappointed with this product. It doesn't really do a good job and it isn't as clever or as high quality as I would normally expect from OXO.

The head is fine, but kind of annoyingly shaped. The handle isn't all that generous, but I guess it's fine. The extension system doesn't really work as I expected. There was no "twist to tighten." Instead this product seemed to rely on friction to keep itself extended. That just didn't really work. Maybe I got a defective one, but I basically can't really use it extended. In which case, why not just get a decent brush.

If I'd bought it, I would have returned it. I think that says as much as I need to say.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 15, 2014 1:35 PM PST

Jabra MOVE Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headset
Jabra MOVE Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headset
Price: $93.74
13 used & new from $65.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-designed and really quite impressive, December 8, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm really pretty impressed with this product but I have very little experience with its competitors.

It charges easily and quickly using a micro-USB cable (although no data can be transferred using the included cable, but I found I could charge it with another micro-USB cable, which was nice). The earphones are pretty comfortable, exclude external noises well (but it is NOT capable of active noise-cancelling, merely noise isolating).

Connections to sound sources are pretty easy: you can plug in a standard stereo jack or you can connect over bluetooth to your phone. I only tested it with an iPhone, but connection was extremely easy, the range was comfortably 25 - 30 feet.

Sound was good, but not great. What really blew me away was that I could answer phone calls, even though there was no apparent/dumb-looking microphone. I only tested this indoors, but the microphone seemed at least as good as a bluetooth headset and picked up my voice even if my hand was in the way.

If you've been looking for a lightweight, comfy, simple, effective cross between headphones and a bluetooth headset, this product is definitely worth looking into. Is it cool? No. Is it well-designed? Yes.

The Genome: A Novel
The Genome: A Novel
by Sergei Lukyanenko
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.04
37 used & new from $9.47

3.0 out of 5 stars Read Nightwatch and then come back to this if you're a big fan..., December 8, 2014
This review is from: The Genome: A Novel (Paperback)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Having read this book all the way to the end, I noticed that the author notes he completed the work in Moscow in 1999. That means this is one of his early works, if not his actual debut novel, and that makes sense.

This book reads like a debut novel from start to finish. Sure, the author is definitely one to watch and there are some very inventive ideas in here. It's also engaging and quite well-paced, although the denouement takes about 20% of the book to unfold. However, the characters are one-dimensional (partly by design, to be fair), the plot is simplistic, and the entire book isn't quite funny enough, nor is as serious as it sometimes thinks it is. There are some political messages woven rather clumsily into the final few pages, almost as if the author realized he hadn't made the points he wanted to and was running out of pages. But it was mostly readable, except for the biological science parts, which I found just beyond silly.

I usually leave synopses to others, but I will say this starts out promisingly with an intriguing premise (you wake up to discover you remember nothing, but that you still have some very well defined skills). The protagonist quickly gathers a rag-tag crew, gets a spaceship, and rapidly ends up in the center of criminal investigation.

I'd recommend Charles Stross' excellent Glass House over this book, since it starts from a remarkably similar premise, and delivers much more in the end. Meanwhile, this book will pass the time if you're a fan of the author.

Concept Board Game
Concept Board Game
Price: $30.20
36 used & new from $28.99

2 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What could be more fun than this game? Anything., October 20, 2014
This review is from: Concept Board Game (Toy)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The only reason you might want to purchase this game is to experience how truly awful it is.

The ... um ... concept of Concept is related to all those fun games where you have to use verbal ingenuity to define words without actually saying the word you're thinking of. In this case, you have to try and define words without saying anything at all and instead pointing to pictures on a big board. There are about 100 pictures to choose from. The game uses a series of color-coded blocks to allow the expression of several different ideas at the same time. The initial question is posed using the green question mark and up to five little green cubes. Then subordinate clauses (if any) are constructed using the exclamation marks and more little colored cubes.

Armed with this information, gleaned from the sub-standard and ill-thought-out instructions, I assembled four smart people over the age of 10 (the minimum number of players required for this game), added an appropriate amount of wine for the adults and sugary beverages for the rest of us, and tried to explain the rules and the scoring. Having read the instructions aloud and then passed them around for review, we were all left with the same burning question: huh?

The crux of our problem is this: what is the incentive for a player to play? Let's say we split into teams and it's my team against your team. My team will try to come up with a creative way of explaining a concept using the picture board. Your team's goal is to try and guess the concept in exchange for light bulbs (the person with the most light bulbs at the end wins). This immediately creates three huge issues:
1, What defines the "end"? I guess you could say the game's over after a certain amount of time...
2, What is the incentive for the people putting together the concept definition? They don't get any light bulbs or points whether they do a good job or a poor job. If they do a poor job, no-one guesses and the game just gets bogged down. If they do a great job, the game keeps moving but that effort is not rewarded in any way.
3, The guessing team actually ends up competing with each other as two light bulbs go to the person who actually makes the correct guess, whilst all other team members get just one light bulb. Since light bulbs are essentially handed out for every turn that is taken, we ended up with a draw between players on opposing teams, and it would be perfectly possible for all participants to be "the winner."

We looked at the rules to see if they would shed any additional light on these issues. We found instead a little note that says something along the lines of, "after extensive testing we determined that the game was more fun without scoring!" Except it isn't. And you don't even have to take my word for it: a quick sample of the top ten suspiciously positive reviews of this game reveal that everyone abandons the scoring system sooner or later... The reality is that the pictures are too limited to make this anything other than a fancy guessing game. That would actually be fine if the scoring system worked well, or somehow rewarded the people creating the concepts rather than the ones doing random guessing, but it doesn't.

The most fun thing about this game was when we gave up at the end and tried to figure out what would be more fun than playing this game. Here are some samples of things that we thought might be more fun than this game:
1) Any other game, including playing Frogger ... with real traffic
2) Elective dental procedures without anaesthetic ("at least you'll be able to smile afterwards!").
3) Watching any movie, even "The Room."
4) Frontal lobotomy (although, to be fair, this one was debated for a few minutes).

There are so many great games out there. Don't waste your time or money on this one. Recommended alternatives include Taboo, Pictionary, Labyrinth, Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity, or any other game ever made.

The Scorched Earth (The Chaos Born)
The Scorched Earth (The Chaos Born)
by Drew Karpyshyn
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.98
93 used & new from $2.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and reasonably well-written., October 16, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm really enjoying this tale. Yes, it's a little predictable and various plot points have been telegraphed from at least fifty pages away, but there are plenty of things to enjoy. The plotting is sufficiently interesting to hold my attention. The characters are more interesting than Karpyshyn's standard Star Wars Good Guys and Bad Guys, although the Bad Guys are still pretty bad - it would have been nice if they'd had a bit more nuance. The writing style is unobtrusive and not noticeably good, bad, or strained.

I hadn't read the first book but the story is accessible enough that I didn't feel like I missed too much.

Briefly, a small gang of five characters has been flung together and, guided only by a flimsy ever-changing prophecy, are attempting to collect various talismans to fight the forces of Evil, who are attempting to take over the world.

It's probably exactly what you're expecting to read, but nonetheless entertaining and engaging. Definitely not a memorable five star book, it gets four stars because I'll almost certainly read the sequel.

Dinner: The Playbook: A 30-Day Plan for Mastering the Art of the Family Meal
Dinner: The Playbook: A 30-Day Plan for Mastering the Art of the Family Meal
by Jenny Rosenstrach
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.46
89 used & new from $7.98

8 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reasonable recipes and a pep-talk, all in one too-cute book, August 24, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm really torn by this book. I fervently believe that family dinners are important, something that was pounded into me as a child, even as my Mum perfected the art of putting four different dishes on the table simultaneously (whilst holding down a full-time job). No, I don't know how she managed either.

This book starts off as a painfully aware self-help book. It even contains a page entitled "In case you are flipping through this book and saying to yourself, "Suckers, who's going to buy this gimmicky self-help book?" It's filled with underlinings and circles and checks and arrows that attempt to draw your attention to key parts of the book, but only succeed in distracting you. After a significant number of pages proselytising, the book suddenly starts to get useful with instructions on how to make a meal plan.

Then we get to the recipes. These are variations on the '30 minute quick healthy meals' with a few bonus more involved meals thrown in for good measure. There's a lot of kale, but not a lot of red meat. The attraction is that all the meals are rated kid-friendly by at least a few kids but don't appear to be too bland. Some of those recipes are simple: baked potatoes, for example. Some are a little more interesting: chicken in a creamy mustard sauce is a winner.

And here's what it boils down to: if I take away even a couple of these recipes and add them to my repertoire, it's a success. I could look up a new recipe on the internet every night and try that, but I'm more likely to flick through this collection of recipes and try a few of them instead. This isn't a great cookbook, but it has something to offer those of us who have got a little stuck in a rut.

If you can look past the annoying style and preachy voice, you'll get to some solid recipes. If the author ever makes a second edition and fixes some of the formatting and digs up a few more interesting recipes, I'd recommend it more easily.

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