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Brian Hawkinson RSS Feed (San Jose, CA)
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George Washington: Gentleman Warrior
George Washington: Gentleman Warrior
by Stephen Brumwell
Edition: Hardcover
48 used & new from $3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brumwell knows his facts, but his delivery fell short..., September 29, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It's hard to write something new on such a renowned United States figure since most people will have already read or learned a considerable about on his life. That being said any new bio or history book needs to engage the reader since it is how it will be delivered that will stand the book apart from numerous other books on the same subject. Brumwell didn't quite do this, although he managed to impart some new information that I hadn't heard before.

Brumwell takes a micro approach to writing about Washington, that of focusing on his every day life instead of the greater events happening at that time. Don't get me wrong, he does mention them, but usually in passing to show how it relates to Washington. Instead we learn a lot of detail on his interaction with his troops, with other officers, with members of Congress and so on. You read about the squabbles that he had with other important figures, how he disciplined his soldiers, how he managed his affairs. This is interesting to a certain point, but certainly not anything too amazing. For example, Brumwell would casually reference a soldier under Washington who would, after the war, become his barber. Little detail like that, while interesting, probably won't last too much longer after this review.

What I struggled with was becoming engaged, wanting to learn and read more, instead I struggled and didn't necessarily want to pick the book up and finish it. It's the narrative side of the book that fell short, even though Brumwell knew his history really well. On a subject I've read about many times over, it is the delivery that will stand the book apart, and the delivery was missing in this case. I am happy to have read Gentleman's Warrior, but on the flip side I am also happy that I am done with it. A tentative recommend, knowing that it may not be as engaging as other more well known books on Washington and the Revolution.

3 stars.


Keebler Town House Pita Crackers, Sea Salt, 9.5 Ounce
Keebler Town House Pita Crackers, Sea Salt, 9.5 Ounce
Price: $2.63
15 used & new from $2.63

3.0 out of 5 stars Needs a touch more sea salt..., September 22, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've had pita chips before and was blown away by them. I couldn't stop eating them at the party I was at. These Town House Pita Crackers kind of hit that same note, but I wish there were just a little more sea salt. One of the selling points for this cracker is that it has sea salt, but I couldn't really taste it, nor can you really see it, so I was left wanting more of it on each cracker. All in all a decent cracker, just wish a little more salt and it would stand out a lot more.


Big Boss 8962 Electric Citrus Juicer, Black
Big Boss 8962 Electric Citrus Juicer, Black
Price: $13.49
9 used & new from $13.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A decent entry level citrus juicer..., September 22, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I love juicing citrus. I have an electric juicer that I also use for fruits and vegetables, but sometimes I just seems to taste better using a citrus juicer. I also used it to juice key limeade, which takes a long time but is well worth it, and Big Boss did the job wonderfully once I got them all cut and prepped. This one is easy to clean and doesn't take up too much space. It does have a pretty light and "cheap" feel to it, so I wonder on how durable it is. My other citrus juicer broke when it dropped on the ground, and this one doesn't feel as though it would survive a drop either. Either way, for now, it works great and look forward to more juice.

4 stars.


Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Playstation 3
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Playstation 3
Offered by tornado-c5
Price: $11.95
222 used & new from $2.38

4.0 out of 5 stars A decent stealth game..., September 22, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've played a lot of video games in the past, and a couple of them have been from the Splinter Cell family from the original Xbox. Wanting to move in to the next generation I decided to give this one a go. Personally I think the storyline was pretty decent. I felt engaged in the story and liked the missions. Graphically I was pretty impressed. I mean some scenes felt like I was watching a move the way they wrote it and developed the two together, and not all of those were CGI, which is even more impressive. I love this feel, as though I'm a character in a movie. This was well done on Ubisoft's part. Game play mechanics take a little getting use to. I don't play stealth games too often, so I died a lot early on. Early on I just couldn't find the stealth approach even though I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. No matter the path I went I was always spotted. Eventually I gave up, parked in a corner, and just picked them off. Sometimes I'd stand next to a fence where they could clearly see me and pick them off one by one, all the while their looking around wondering where the shooting is coming from. This only happened a few times and was a little annoying, but the AI usually was pretty damn good.

There seemed to be a lot of pathways blocked. An early mission, you are supposed to infiltrate a police station from a side entrance. I went to the left successfully not being seen, when all of a sudden I'm bumping up against an invisible wall and can't go anywhere else. Turn around and see the other side of the street has a whole in the wall. I wish these invisible walls would be dealt with better as there were many times I'd be sneaking along and suddenly stopped for no reason. Finally, the command ship, although it seems a bit too large, is a nice addition. It reminds me of Mass Effect and had the same feel when walking around. I can't really comment on multiplayer because for some reason I could never find a match. I'd sit there searching for a server only to give up and return to the single player. All in all a pretty good game.

4 stars.


Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945
Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945
by Rana Mitter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.26
94 used & new from $3.21

8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good account, just some missing info that would have added a lot, September 1, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've always been fascinated with WWII and have always wondered about China's role. Mitter does an admirable job in showing China as the 4th ally, but seems to fall short on a few instances.

For the most part Mitter does an admirable job in showing how China played its role in WWII. 2 years before the war started, and 4 years before the US got involved, China had been battling, and losing, the Japanese. I mean they were getting it handed to them royally, literally backpedaling the whole way. This doesn't diminish the sacrifice they made, it just puts in to perspective their fighting power compared to Japan. Frankly I am amazed they lasted as long as they did. One of the more shocking things to happen that Mitter pointed out was the battle between the Nationalists and the Communists. I mean in the midst of fighting the Japanese they turned on each other and started killing each other in pitched battles! This seems so utterly ridiculous compared to what they were fighting against, but was normal to both parties as they ultimately were trying to gain the upperhand over each other throughout the war.

Mitter does an excellent job in showing the political atmosphere that shaped how the war was fought and I completely understood where China stood during the war, not only compared to Japan but also to its allies. What I don't understand is why Mitter omitted some key details that are necessary to almost any WWII account. First and foremost is his complete lack of detail of the major pitched battles that took place. Maybe there just wasn't any information available, but he seems to indicate in the epilogue that there were sufficient memoirs and interviews available once the stigmata of being a nationalist (after the communist propaganda branded them as such) wore off and people were able to step forward. The Battle of Wuhan was a major battle that resulted in a huge amount of death and was hugely strategic, yet Mitter only briefly mentions it, just to say that Chiang fled it just as the Japanese encircled the city. Such a huge battle, where is the detail? Mitter mentions a "significant military victory at Pingxingguan" but does noting more than this one lowly sentence. If it was so significant, why not spend a couple of pages explaining why or writing about the battle? Finally, there is zero mention about Unit 741, the Japanese facility in Manchuria that was used throughout WWII to perform experiments on humans. Not only this but dropping flea bombs of the bubonic plague on eastern Chinese villages or spraying villages with anthrax. Not a single mention even though this is a significant atrocity against China during WWII that needs to be written about.

When it is all said and done, Mitter does an admirable job in showing the political atmosphere between China and its allies, as well as between the Nationalists, Communists and Japan. I understood the dynamics of what was going on, but there seemed to be a complete lack of detail that left me wanting more. Maybe there wasn't any detail to provide since communist China clamped down and prevented any such detail, but it seems like there was some available, hinted at from the epilogue alone. Either way, a decent WWII account that has made me more inquisitive, just wish there was more.

3 stars.


Whirlpool 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control, ACP102GPW1
Whirlpool 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control, ACP102GPW1
2 used & new from $804.45

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice unit, with a couple of caveats, August 25, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Living in an apartment without AC can be a drain during the summer. A few summer's ago it was so hot for so long here in the Bay Area that I wanted one of these units and was willing to pay just to stop the heat. Alas, everyone had that idea and I couldn't get a unit. Fast forward 2 years and here I am with one. I'm pretty happy with the unit itself. It cools the room down quickly and the noise level isn't too much. I can watch my TV in relative peace with this unit on without having to turn the volume up too loud. Easy to move around and will be safely tucked away come winter, which is nice. A few downsides. Everyone says this is an easy setup. It is, to a certain extent.

1) You need a single outlet, which, as another reviewer pointed out, aren't readily available in most situations. Luckily I live in an older apartment and there is such an outlet, but I don't think I have seen one of these in any of my friend's or relative's houses.
2) It is heavy. Make sure and have another person there to help you move it to where you want. Once out of the box you can roll/shimy it along to where you need.
3) One of the tools you need is a saw! Huh? A saw? Anyway, I was able to borrow one from my brother, but beware of this when installing for yourself.
4) I live in a smaller apartment, so this comes in to play a little bit. You need to install it 19 inches from your window. This puts it very close to my bed if I use it in my bedroom, and a little ways out in my living room. Keep this in mind when considering for your place.

All in all this is a slick unit and does the job nicely. Beware of a few of the items above when considering for yourself, but if none of them worry you than this is a unit you should consider for your cooling needs.


Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste
Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste
by Luke Barr
Edition: Hardcover
84 used & new from $0.01

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The chefs who inlfuenced American cooking..., August 24, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm on the fence with Provence, 1970. On the outside it seems like a fun little history, or fun combo memoir if you will since it is made up mostly of the personal accounts of Fisher and Child. On the one side it is well written and reads fluidly, but on the other it seems like the message that Barr was trying to convey got muddled and lost.

There is no doubt the influence that Child, Fisher and Beard and company had on the culinary world and the home kitchen. They influenced it more than any other group of people or time period. Barr attempts to show how in 1970 all of these great chefs came together and through happenstance all came to the same conclusion, which was moving away from the stuffy, elitist French style of cooking to a more world, flavor based cooking. This is a great connection that I enjoyed reading about, learning about Fisher, whom I'd previously known very little about.

But this history breaks down in the message it is trying to convey. He very distinctly follows Fisher more than any other, although Child is a close second. That being said we see this shift in mentality most in Fisher as she began to rebel against the elitist, snobby French cuisine and the culture behind it. What set her off was a poignant interaction with Olney and Bedford. Both were elitist and reveled in the idea that they knew what was good and Fisher and Child and company were fakes or imposters. Barr makes a point to show how the dying culture behind the French cuisine was Olney and Bedford, and knowing that their culture was dying out and food was going in a different direction, they began to get nasty and mean, almost like the wounded animal lashing out in its death throes. In fact there were several long scenes where this took place and this point made. So imagine my surprise when Olney is suddenly lumped in with those pioneers of change and added to list of influential chefs that changed the culinary world of the US. Why go to the effort to show where Olney stands, only to then include him with Fisher, Beard and Child? It almost seems like Barr either forgot that he had made Olney the villain in this 1970 drama, or that he became confused with the message he was trying to convey.

Either way it muddied the water enough for me that I no longer cared about the book. With message no longer clear, I moved through the book thinking that Olney is just another name drop to add more clout to the idea of influential chefs that changed the culinary culture of the US. Not necessarily a bad read, but enough drawbacks that I wouldn't necessarily recommend either.

2.5 stars.


Turtle Beach Ear Force Z22 Amplified PC Gaming Headset
Turtle Beach Ear Force Z22 Amplified PC Gaming Headset
Offered by Direct Distributor
Price: $78.12
15 used & new from $17.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Great sound sets this one apart from the other Turtle Beach headsets..., August 24, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've only recently started using gaming headsets, usually so as to use Ventrillo in game. My main headset I use is the X12 and have no problems with it at all. It was at a good price and quality sound. The main drawback I had to trying the Z22 is the price. Why pay more for something most likely essentially the same as the almost 50 dollar cheaper headset? Well after using it for a while I can certainly see why. The sound is a lot better than the X12 and you have more control over the various sound controls. I alternated from one set to the other to compare the sound and found the Z22 to be superior in every way. As far as I can tell the microphone works the same, so no difference there. If you can put in a little extra money than the Z22 is the headset to get and one I will use from here on out.


Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Ala Notable Books for Adults)
Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Ala Notable Books for Adults)
by Scott Anderson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.61
194 used & new from $2.14

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A phenomenal narrative history of the Middle Eastern Front of WWI..., August 6, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Books are few and far in between that impress me as much as Lawrence in Arabia has done. I love narrative history and when an author does it right it is definitely a joy to read. Mattingly and Atkinson are my two favorite narrative historians, but I think Anderson might very well have taken up a spot next to them.

Coming in to Lawrence in Arabia I have only read a handful of WWI books, but one of them was a bio of T.E. Lawrence, so I am familiar with a lot of the lore and facts surrounding this enigmatic character. What I like most with Anderson's history is that it isn't just a history, and it isn't just a bio of Lawrence. It is a combination of both, giving the history of the Middle Eastern Front and Arab Revolt of WWI, and intertwining that with a central character in Lawrence, along with other notable personalities that had a hand in the conflict in the Middle East. This leads to an all around well rounded history of the time while honoring the efforts of all who had a hand in the outcome.

What I took away more this time from Lawrence in Arabia than I did with the bio I've read of Lawrence was how the imperial designs of the Entente Powers guided and directed how they fought against the Central Powers. I didn't realize that amidst all the destruction and life or death struggle between England and France against Germany and the Ottoman Empire they were constantly trying to position themselves in such a way as to increase their dominions after the war. This was truly the last Great War, where the powers that be fought wars for land grabs, as opposed to the horror of WW2 where it was so much more than empires fighting for land and more about putting an end to the atrocities being committed. I think I took this concept away more so than anything else, although Anderson's writing of Lawrence is particularly poignant and heavily influences the flavor of this narrative history. He doesn't hide behind Lawrence though, instead he writes about his positive as well as negative qualities, guesses when he thinks Lawrence was embellishing or lying, while at the same time giving credit where credit was due.

Lawrence in Arabia one of the best history books I've read this year, only behind Atkinson, and look forward to reading more from Anderson (if there is anything; a quick look shows such a range of time periods that they can't possibly be all by him). This is most definitely a recommend not only for WWI but for any fan of history as Anderson does narrative history a service in adding this to its genre.

5 stars.


(OLD MODEL) Seagate Central 2TB Personal Cloud Storage NAS STCG2000100
(OLD MODEL) Seagate Central 2TB Personal Cloud Storage NAS STCG2000100
8 used & new from $64.01

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A decent hard drive... Later to be found unusable..., July 28, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Overall I've found that the setup was pretty easy and is compact and unobtrusive. Setup was easy as taking it out of the box and plugging it in, with only one small hiccup. I plugged the network cable in to slot 3 (internet is in slot 1) and for some reason my PC wouldn't pick it up automatically, or manually through the Seagate Discovery Tool. Have no clue why it wouldn't, because adjusting it to slot 2 made my PC pick it up immediately. I use mine to stream videos so this works just fine for me. After using it a little bit I've found transfer speeds to not be too bad as other reviewers have said. Transferring a 500 mb file took about 10 seconds, which is no slower than my other drives, and is plenty of fast for me. I would imagine if I'm going to try and transfer all my videos over it would take an extremely long time, which, again, is no different than transferring everything over to my back up drive. All in all I am happy with this hard drive and will be doing all of my streaming from it.

Update: I found something that has made the drive virtually unusable with the way I currently have my system set up. After using it for a little bit I noticed that my consoles (both of them) kept losing its connecting to my PC. I use PS3 Media Server to connect to my consoles and stream. So the minute my connection is severed I of course have to start everything over, locating where I left off. This is of course after rebooting the console to re-establish the network connection. It took me a little while to find out why I kept losing my connection until I noticed that my modem was showing an unusual amount of activity. I started turning off devices to discover what was interfering with my connection and it wasn't until I got to the Seagate Central and unplugged it that the activity on my modem stopped and I was able to stream uninterrupted again. I have no clue why this is happening. I even tried to stream directly, without using PS3 server, and it still wouldn't hold a connection. Maybe there is something simple that I can do to fix this, but as of right now the drive is unusable to me since there is nothing more annoying than constantly losing your connection in the middle of what you are watching.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 1, 2013 12:17 PM PDT


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