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Matthew T. Weflen "Matthew Weflen" RSS Feed (Chicago, IL)
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The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life
The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life
by Tom Pyszczynski
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.90

4.0 out of 5 stars A good supplement to "The Denial of Death.", April 22, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A brief overview of the topic matter: Ernest Becker wrote a book in the 70s called "The Denial of Death." In this book (which won a Pulitzer prize), Becker argues that all of human culture is motivated by the fear of death, whether it is latent or at the forefront of our consciousness. As conscious beings who live in a world rich with symbols (god, country, money, consumer goods), we invest those symbols of our culture with great importance, and tend to lash out when those symbols that represent our highest values and our immortality are threatened. If you haven't read it, the first 4 chapters at least are absolutely thrilling to read, and cast human culture in a really interesting light. I use those chapters in the introduction to philosophy classes that I teach, and most students seem to get a lot out of them.

This book is a summary of the social and psychological research done by a group of scholars since then. A taste of much of their work can be found in the documentary film "Flight From Death," which is available on many streaming services, as well as on DVD. In this work, the researchers have devised experiments to show that the way people cling to and defend their symbols is readily demonstrable and measurable. For instance, judges who were given a survey with a death reminder question assessed bond penalties that were 9 times the control group for specimen prostitution cases. Students who were given death reminder questions in surveys poured greater portions of hot sauce to a peer who did not share their cultural background. The authors have coined this "Terror Management Theory," the ideas that cultural symbols help people regulate their death fear.

The writing of this book is clear and straightforward. It would represent a nice supplement to the Denial of Death for a philosophy, psychology, or social science class. The copy I was provided with does not contain the footnotes, so unfortunately I cannot assess this aspect of it. Overall, I don't think this would be of extraordinary interest to a layperson, and would suggest that they start with the Becker book or the documentary first. This is a scholarly work very similar to other Psychology or social science secondary texts. It does engage in some flights of interpretation and meditative prose, but it is generally drier than the primary text.


Summer Infant Baby Zoom Wi-Fi Video Monitor and Internet Viewing System, Link Wi-Fi Series
Summer Infant Baby Zoom Wi-Fi Video Monitor and Internet Viewing System, Link Wi-Fi Series
Price: $199.99
27 used & new from $147.33

4.0 out of 5 stars Competent but probably not worth the price, April 16, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The viewing unit is sturdy and has an adjustable kickstand. The range seems good. The screen is a bit small, though, and the functions of the menu buttons are a bit abstract. The thermometer seems accurate, though in my experience it jumps up or down in two degree increments.

The night image is pretty decent, on a par with the Motorola unit. The day image is of course quite nice, as with most inexpensive small cameras. The camera's angle isn't particularly wide, so you really have to get close to the crib. We have a Motorola unit across the room that can see our son's whole bed. On the other hand, the panning action is good and omnidirectional. It is a bit loud, however, so you may not want to use it with a light sleeper.

My wife has not yet been able to find the camera on wi-fi via her iPhone 6 (after having downloaded the iOS app). Setp is far from self explanatory. There is no Windows Phone app - you're SOL if you use a Windows Phone or Surface tablet. Sure, I know this isn't the majority of the market, but it's still tens of millions of people. It's a real disappointment.

Overall, it's a decent unit, but probably not worth the premium price, UNLESS you really need a camera you can adjust the angle on remotely. In that case, this camera does things others typically can't.


Bosch HDH181X-01 18-volt 1/2-Inch Brute Tough Hammer Drill/Driver with Active Response Technology
Bosch HDH181X-01 18-volt 1/2-Inch Brute Tough Hammer Drill/Driver with Active Response Technology
Price: $299.00
3 used & new from $299.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A lot of drill for an amateur, DOES NOT INCLUDE BITS, March 28, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There are probably a few different kinds of drill customers out there. There is the professional driller, construction or contracting sort of person. Then there is the amateur handyman, the kind with a shed and various projects in the works. Then there are people like me - persons who live in a condo in a city, who don't do a lot of serious carpentry, who need a drill once or twice a year to put up a sliding lock or redo a door knob or attach fasteners to a picture frame.

So for me, my questions are: how easy is it to use, and how long do the batteries retain a charge (on a months scale, not a days or weeks scale).

I was satisfied on both counts. First, a caveat: THIS DRILL SET COMES WITH NO BITS. This is very important if you are in the third of the aforementioned categories. You'd better have your own bits, whether from a previous drill or some sort of stand-alone set. Luckily for me, I had my old drill and its bits. They slotted in just fine. But after that hiccup, I was pleased that the battery packs have a status indicator, retain a charge for a nice long time (mine still had juice out of the box), come in a pair with a nice charger, and are "vented" to encourage longer life.

In use, this drill generates a lot of torque. I can't imagine anything really that would provide insurmountable resistance for the motor. Your bit will break or your battery will drain before this drill will get stuck. I was able to power through a very tough picture frame that I could not hammer a guide nail into, it was so dense and hard. The drill made easy work of it. the trigger provides a very nice analog sensitivity, ramping up the speed very smoothly as you press harder.I also really like the LED "headlight" that activates when you pull the trigger. It made seeing where I was drilling an easy matter.

The drill comes with a very nice cloth case that zips up tight, though it is a bit lacking in terms of inserts to keep items stationary.

All in all, I think this is probably a heavier duty drill than most amateur once-a-year drillers might need, especially since it does not include bits in the box. For a dedicated handyman or a pro, this definitely seems like it would do the job, any job, and not quit long term.


No Title Available

4.0 out of 5 stars Tasty, VERY chocolatey, too expensive, March 19, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This bar is advertised as "chocolate cherry almond." Well, the chocolate flavor is very assertive and quite tasty, on the dark end of the chocolate flavor spectrum. But it's so overpowering that the cherries and almonds really can't be tasted, and the chocolate aftertaste lingers for quite while. So you should go in knowing that this is a chocolate bar with some extra crunchy bits you won't taste. The mouth feel is very moist, almost peaty, if that makes sense. The crunchy bits can get stuck in the teeth, so if you have sensitive choppers this one isn't for you.

Nutritionally, there is an admirable panoply of organic ingredients and nutrients. The nutrients that stand out against the competition are probably Phosphorous, Molybdenum, Iodine, Manganese, 12g of Protein, 1g Omega-3, and only 65mg (3% DV) salt.

I think the "meal replacement" rhetoric on the box is just that - a way to cover the fact that this is very high in calories (260) and sugar (19g). Yes, the bar is relatively filling. But as a grown man, I wouldn't swap it for a real meal except in an emergency. I have been using these as a snack between meals when I teach, and have to wait 5 or 6 hours between lunch and dinner. These bars fill this role nicely.

A note on cost - yes, you're getting a pledge of "gluten free" and "non-GMO" ingredients. Personally, I am not convinced that these things are more than buzzwords, and definitely don't think they justify paying twice for these bars what you might pay for a competitive bar with similar nutrition. IF these cost about a third less, I'd consider buying them as a tide-me-over supplement on my teaching days. But in excess of three bucks per serving? No thank you.


Cetaphil Baby Moisturizing Oil with Organic Calendula, Sweet Almond Oil & Sunflower Oil, 13.5 Ounce
Cetaphil Baby Moisturizing Oil with Organic Calendula, Sweet Almond Oil & Sunflower Oil, 13.5 Ounce
Price: $5.94
2 used & new from $5.94

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine baby oil, but beware of the strong scent, March 15, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It's baby oil. You needn't wonder whether any of these fancy ingredients endow the oil with special powers. It does pretty much what baby oil does. Moisturizes a bit, especially after a bath or shower, doesn't leave much of a residue, and doesn't involve any petroleum products. I used this on my son's dry legs and on his face (where he had stuck a sticker and left it sit there all night), and it did a good job of moisturizing and perhaps aiding the rash from the sticker in going away.

That said, I find the scent a bit off-putting. It's pretty strong, and it has notes of cucumber and mint, or some kind of combination like that. It could be that the scent annoys me because I cant place it, but there you have it. Do not go into buying this oil thinking the scent will be easily dismissible.


Philips 452391 65 Watt Equivalent LED BR30 SlimStyle Dimmable Soft White Frustration Free, 2-Pack
Philips 452391 65 Watt Equivalent LED BR30 SlimStyle Dimmable Soft White Frustration Free, 2-Pack
Price: $29.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good BR30 LED, but it comes with a few caveats, March 10, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Philips SlimStyle BR30 LED lamp is suited for recessed downlights, such as you might find in a ceiling or perhaps a fan. It offers some distinct benefits in such an application, but has a few drawbacks.

First off, the dimensions. The bulb is 3.7" wide and about 5" tall. Keep that in mind when considering where to stick it But of course if you're replacing incandescent BR30's (which you should), this should fit anywhere they will. This can't be used in completely enclosed fixtures, but is rated for recessed downlighting cans. The bulb gets hot, but not unbearably so, and not on the lighting surface. One can pretty easily unscrew up just by keeping their fingers on the top of the bulb and not touching the stem, where the heat is apparently directed.

A big advantage is weight. The slim form factor, without a bulky metal heat sink, weighs only 3.75 oz. The heaviest heat sink LED light I have in my house weighs 5.75 oz. So that's a weight reduction of 35%. This can be crucial based on the strength of the fixture.

Although the lamp is rated by Philips to draw 9.5 Watts, I measured it at an initial 10.1 Watts on my Kill-A-Watt meter. The lamp exceeded the rated Lumens, though, pumping out about 730 upon first turning on. Of course, LED bulbs do lose peak brightness after an hour or so, so I believe the rated 9.5w/650lm after it reaches steady heat and brightness. 650 Lumens at 9.5 Watts works out to 68.4 Lumens per Watt, which is not terribly impressive (many consumer grade LEDs push 80 these days). The Kill-a-Watt rated the Power Factor at .90, which is among the better ratings in my household (my Cree bulbs get to .98).

The color temperature is definitely a warm ~2700k. The dimming works well, I didn't notice any flicker on my generic dimmer switch (no fancy Lutrons or anything) and it gets quite dim (instead of cutting out at 10% of brightness like some bulbs do), but there is one big caveat here. The dimming curve seems steeper than other bulbs. By this I mean, although you can get the Philips quite dim, it is further up on the switch where this happens, so another bulb on the same switch will be brighter at the same switch position, but have much further to go. This means two things - it's using more power at the same dimness levels, and you can't really use this in concert with other brands of dimmable bulbs, because you'll have some that are still on while these cut off.

At fifteen bucks per bulb, with the above caveats, this is a pretty average deal. Feit Electric offers a similar bulb that uses 13w for the same brightness (so less efficient), but also has a CRI of 93+ (its accuracy in rendering colors) for just over ten bucks per bulb. They're probably about even in terms of value based on those factors, and the things that should sway you in the Philips' favor are weight and wattage.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 18, 2015 10:17 PM PDT


T.S. Shure ArchiQuest Architectural Elements Building Blocks in a Wooden Box - 59 Piece Set
T.S. Shure ArchiQuest Architectural Elements Building Blocks in a Wooden Box - 59 Piece Set
Price: $26.21
6 used & new from $26.21

3.0 out of 5 stars A bit too small and smooth for my (and my son's) taste, March 3, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Things to note about these blocks:

1. they are much smaller than they look in the image. The smallest square blocks are about 1/2 inch square, which meas you definitely cannot have these lying around in a household with children who still put things in their mouths.

2. They are very smooth, and so stacking them upon each other really requires precise control and a flat surface. The towers you make will not be as sturdy as they might be with other kinds of blocks, whether the wooden "letter" blocks, or foam rubber blocks.

3. Several of the pieces have the same shape and are easy to mistake for each other. This wouldn't be an issue except the instructions for building various famous towers indicate using particular blocks, and the instructions have them all colored the same way. Th actual blocks are not one color per type, so it can be a hassle to turn a rectangular block every which way in order to see what type it is.

All that said, these are fine blocks, solid wood, and the carrying case is nice and slender. I don't think these could ever be the primary blocks that a kid uses because of their size and the general fragility of structures their size and smoothness create.


Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul
Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul
by Stephen Jenkinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.36
48 used & new from $12.34

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Infuriatingly elliptical organization blunts concept absorption, February 25, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I guess I should have expected something different based on this book's subtitle, but I went in to this book hoping for a text-book like discussion of end-of-life issues in the vein of Kubler-Ross or KAstenbaum, like I read in college. Instead, I was mostly frustrated. Mr. Jenkinson can write well, and movingly. But the organization of this book is infuriatingly elliptical. There are chapter headings with reasonable sounding titles like "The Ordeal of Managed Death," "Kids," and "The Tyrant Hope." But the narrative within talks around and around issues, without much in the way of straightforward explication. For instance, here is a passage from "The Ordeal of Managed Death:"

"Many times I've asked health care audiences whet they think of when I say 'Cobalt.' For a few of them it is a place in northwestern Ontario, close to nowhere, which is half true. For the rest, you can see the generational split open up in the room. The younger people, anyone under forty-five or so, think of it as a colour. Many of the older ones get a grave look in their eye. Do you remember, I ask them, hearing stories of your grandma or uncle coming home from the hospital with burns that wouldn't heal?"

This is all in the context of setting up a concept Jenkinson coins "If you can, you should," which is the ordeal managed end of life care foists upon people today. But is this story really terribly germane to the sorts of issues people today face when receiving cancer treatment, or is it a superfluous example of cancer care in past time periods that really just fills up pages as opposed to enlightening? Wouldn't it be more instructive to show us examples of alternate modes of end-of-life care?

So for the most part, I found myself flipping through the book, trying to bypass gratuitous stories and rather to extract the main ideas. I kept getting drawn in to this or that story, but when I found that it didn't tie in particularly well to the stated theme of the chapter, I would get frustrated and move on.

So look. If you're looking for a straightforward examination of the issues with notes you can take and lessons to digest about the overall topic of death in our culture, you will probably be frustrated. To put it bluntly, don't buy this book if you're terminally ill and only have a week or two. But if you're looking for a meandering yet intermittently satisfying lyrical journey through the very general topic of death and dying, then by all means, purchase away.


Speck Products MightyShell Case for iPhone 6 - Retail Packaging - Carrot Orange/Speck Blue/Slate
Speck Products MightyShell Case for iPhone 6 - Retail Packaging - Carrot Orange/Speck Blue/Slate
Price: $46.80
3 used & new from $40.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice case, too expensive, February 10, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Speck case has a lot going for it. It is svelte, which can't be said of the ginormous Otter Box case. The openings have a good tolerance for both original and non-Apple cords. It is easy to get the phone into the case, but it is quite secure when holding the phone. There is no screen protector included, but he lip around the top does a good job of creating a buffer around the screen. The side buttons are a bit hard to click easily, but still consistently engage with good pressure.

The real question is whether this is 5 times as good as the Monoprice case, which offers very similar dimensions and only a slightly less premium feel. The Monoprice case doesn't play well with non-Apple connectors, and it's a bit hard to get the phone into the case. But overall, it's probably a better deal unless you're a dedicated Speck fan, or prefer the aesthetics of this case.


Classic Brands Cool Sleep Ventilated Gel Memory Foam Gusseted Pillow, Standard
Classic Brands Cool Sleep Ventilated Gel Memory Foam Gusseted Pillow, Standard
Price: $34.99
2 used & new from $29.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine pillow, but doesn't provide enough support for this side sleeper, February 3, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Although I like this pillow for what it is, it won't become my "daily driver" so to speak. For one thing, it is not as "cool" as advertised - I detect no difference between this pillow and a cloth/foam pillow in terms of pillow temperature. The other aspect I find a bit lacking is the overall heft of it - I like a bit more "sink" to my pillows. I am a side sleeper who occasionally goes on my back for a nap. I want to be able to have a good bit of pillow between my shoulder and neck, and this one is a tad thin. This pillow has not supplanted my Coop Shredded Memory Foam pillow, which is thick enough and retains enough shape to suffice for side sleeping.

All that said, this is a fine pillow generally. It maintains and recovers its shape well, is gussetted, and fits well into a standard pillowcase. There is a slight odor upon opening (common to foam pillows) but it diminishes quickly (within a day).


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