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Customer Reviews: 177
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Matthew T. Weflen "Matthew Weflen" RSS Feed (Chicago, IL)
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Bowling Fundamentals 2nd Edition
Bowling Fundamentals 2nd Edition
by Michelle Mullen
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.51
42 used & new from $11.51

5.0 out of 5 stars Complete, informative, highly readable primer for amateur bowlers, September 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have enjoyed bowling since my mom was in a league and put me into a kids league that played at the same alley (you know, AKA babysitting). Over the years, my average has fluctuated between say 125 and 150. High enough not to embarrass myself, but not really high enough to compete without a handicap. I am a right-handed, straight-shooting bowler with a 4-step approach.

This book is terrific. It proceeds very logically, from ball weight, to 4 or 5 step approach, to backswing, release, spare shooting, lane etiquette, everything you could imagine. Writing about bowling (or any kinesthetic activity) is a challenge, but videos don't really cut it as teaching tools, either, since it is difficult to reference particular ideas quickly. Mullen really does a yeoman's job at describing physical movements in a straightforward manner, and choosing pictures that really relate to said descriptions. Her style is not overloaded with jargon or technicality, either. This book is approachable, but complete. I really like how her style is personal, too. She often refers to her own coaching experience, which makes this feel like more than just a manual or "For Dummies" book.

Basically, if you're like me, someone who loves bowling but hasn't yet really dived into rigorously improving your game, I can't imagine a better jump-start for the process. Highly recommended.


Epson Expression Premium XP-520 Wireless Color Photo Printer with Scanner and Copier
Epson Expression Premium XP-520 Wireless Color Photo Printer with Scanner and Copier
Price: $118.92

2.0 out of 5 stars Lackluster photo performance, horrendous setup, prohibitive ink costs, September 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Epson bills this printer as a do-everything (photos, regular prints, scans) and connect-to-everything (WiFi, laptops, smartphones, tablets) printing solution. The experience in our household was not as smooth or all-encompassing. The main issue was with setup, which was unduly difficult (we have a pretty typical wireless network in our home, using an Asus "Dark Knight" wireless router).

Pros:
-can print from computer or phone/tablet without connecting any cables.
-can control scanner from phone app and set to send files to Google drive
-print quality on text is nice

Cons:
-instructions in box minimal
-had trouble installing with Windows computer but worked quickly with Mac
-need access to the printer set-up webpage to fix WiFi problems (ours had to be reset to assign the printer IP address dynamically instead of static) and link to Google account, but we had trouble accessing the page at first until it just worked eventually
-print quality for color images is unsatisfying, especially in red and black

Why can no one create a printer setup program for Windows that works as well as Mac? We are using a modern Windows 8.1 laptop that has no problems connecting to anything else over the network. The included "driver" program did anything but. It was utterly useless for setting up the printer, and after several 10 minute long attempts, only manually setting things on the printer itself rendered it visible on our network.

More problematic for us was photo print quality. Although regular office paper prints looked nice, we could not get red or black inks to saturate into glossy photo paper (we were using Fujifilm Premium Plus "Glossy" Inkjet paper). Blues, Greens, and flesh tones looked OK, but blacks and reds beaded and sat on top of the paper until drying as "beads" of color.

It should also be said that the ink cartridge replacement costs are an obscenity. This business model in which replacement ink costs as much as the printer itself needs to stop.

All in all, I can't recommend this to anyone. Maybe I'm just over printers. Would I like to have photo quality prints of pictures I've taken to display around the house? Sure. But frankly, at these costs and with this quality, I'd rather just go to Walgreens.


Heavy Weight Square 14-Inch Metallic Woven Vinyl Placemat, Black, Set of 4
Heavy Weight Square 14-Inch Metallic Woven Vinyl Placemat, Black, Set of 4
Price: $15.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Despite square shape, these are durable and easy to clean placemats, September 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These placemats are pretty nice. We have several other styles of placemat in our home, all of which are cloth. These are variously good or bad, with respect to how well they can retain their shape and avoid wrinkles when washed and dried (and no, I'm not going to take the time to iron placemats... folding is about what you'll get from me). These vinyl placemats obviate this problem, since they're not really foldable, and they don't go into the laundry. Major spills with lots of little gooey parts can be somewhat tough to get out because of the woven texture, but for the most part they wipe clean easily (and the sink can get it done if something is huge). The square shape does make it so that place settings have to be closer than on a rectangular mat, but this isn't a huge deal unless you're hosting the royal family or something. One thing I really like is how non-slip they are on our dining table. They're not ultra-grippy, but they slip far less than fabric.


Kyocera CFP26BK Ceramic Nonstick Fry Pan, 10-Inch
Kyocera CFP26BK Ceramic Nonstick Fry Pan, 10-Inch
Price: $46.50
6 used & new from $46.50

5.0 out of 5 stars PROVISIONAL: Great pan with excellent non-stick properties, September 24, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was thoroughly impressed by this pan's non-stick properties. I cooked scrambled and fried eggs with a small amount of olive oil, as well as veggie burgers with a small amount of olive oil. Both items lifted easily and cleanly off of the pan, the scrambled eggs leaving a small residue, but one that wiped off easily with just a paper towel. Water beads on the surface of this pan as though it were completely hydrophobic, just like a PTFE or PFOA coated pan.

This does come with the caveat that you should only use medium heat. I suppose if you need to sear meats at high heat, this isn't the pan for you (you'd be better off with steel or cast iron in that case, anyway). You are also not supposed to put this in the dishwasher, but cleaning was so easy that I don't find this onerous (and it is the same caveat for other non stick pan varieties, too).

This review is provisional, of course, and will be altered or upheld at such time as I can see that these non-stick properties last (unlike the horrible rip-off "GreenPan" pans with "thermolon," which should be avoided AT ALL COSTS!).


Seventh Generation Hand Wash, Mandarin Orange & Grapefruit , 12 ounce, (Pack of 8)
Seventh Generation Hand Wash, Mandarin Orange & Grapefruit , 12 ounce, (Pack of 8)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Natural, pleasant smelling, works well, September 22, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Disclaimer: I love citrus-scented things. So I am probably predisposed to liking this product. But I think it's a pretty good soap, too.

This Seventh Generation soap claims to be "natural," hypoallergenic, and 97% plant based. OK. I have no way of independently verifying this except for not having had any allergic reactions to it. It also purports to have no synthetic dyes, fragrances, or phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals designed to alter the viscosity of liquids. Phthalates are being studied with respect to disruption of the endocrine system, asthma, breast cancer, and reduction of anogenital distance in the fetuses of exposed pregnant women. These all sound pretty bad. The science is not definite yet, and I would never be one to tell people to freak out and ditch every product in their homes.

But hey, this soap smells good and works just fine in terms of cleaning. So why not? The fragrance is definitely more on the grapefruit side of things (does a mandarin orange even smell like anything?), but is altogether pleasant. The soap does not create a film on the hands that is hard to get off, but it seems to have a good surfactant action and emulsifying action with respect to dirt and grime.

So all in all, it's a slam dunk soap to buy, especially if you like citrus fragrances.


Mio 56P-SPEC-LRG Link Electric Large/Medium Continuous Heart Rate Band
Mio 56P-SPEC-LRG Link Electric Large/Medium Continuous Heart Rate Band

3.0 out of 5 stars Lackluster Android app and lack of numerical display sink an otherwise comfortable monitor, September 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Pros:
-More comfortable than a chest strap heart rate monitor
-Seems pretty accurate
-Setting several target heartrates on the unit gives you an LED indicator light telling you when you're in any of six "zones."

Cons:
-No digital numerical display on the unit, meaning you have to watch your heartrate on a smartphone in realtime
-No record of your workout heartrate during your most recent workout, no ability to compare with prior workouts (this is using the Mio Android application)
-Several of the indicator light colors aren't different enough (e.g. light blue, dark blue, green)

Conclusion:
With the included mobile app and lacking a display, this is hard to recommend highly for an Android user, or for someone without a smartphone. If indeed it works with other, better workout trackers (another review indicated Runkeeper), then this concern might be obviated. But the lack of a numerical display on the wrist unit itself is kind of a dealbreaker for someone who is doing serious running or lifting, for instance. There would be no way during such an intense workout to whip out your smartphone and track yourself. Then, since there is no record, you couldn't even do so when you finally slowed down.


AmazonBasics On-Ear Headphones
AmazonBasics On-Ear Headphones
Price: $14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So-so build, muddy bass, September 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Well, at this price, these phones are far from awful. But they are just as far from good.

Build: The cups hug my ears really nicely, I was pleasantly surprised, since these are "on ear" phones (i.e. smaller than the ear). I had always preferred "over the ear" phones, but I ended up liking these. They are rather tight (see below) but this did lend itself to some nice noise isolation.

The headband barely gets big enough to reach over my head. Now, I have kind of a big melon, but certainly not the biggest out there. So if you're a fellow member of the Big Head Club, you may want to look elsewhere. The cups do swivel to store flat, which is nice.

Sound: I am not an audiophile. I don't buy thousand dollar speakers and I don't have a "DAC," whatever that is. But I can tell the difference between good sound and bad, and these phones lean towards the latter, I'm afraid to say. Bass is muddy and overpowering. It drowns out the middle range of any music that has significant bass to it. On music with less bass (e.g. classical), this is less of an issue. These phones do get quite loud, which would be a point in their favor if you needed it (I don't).

I am comparing these to the comparably priced Sennheiser HD201 over-the-ear phones. That model is so much cleaner sounding, allowing the listener to pick out small details in the music, that I just can't recommend the AmazonBasics phones very highly. They're appropriate for someone who needs loud, cheap headphones that store flat. If you actually like to hear music and are on a budget, though, try the HD201.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 17, 2014 11:16 PM PDT


Paderno World Cuisine Mandolin Vegetable Slicer
Paderno World Cuisine Mandolin Vegetable Slicer
Price: $39.95

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well-thought out mandolin, September 16, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is my first mandolin. So I think I had some unrealistic expectations going in. On TV, it looks like people just whip through things in a flash. I tried this on some red potatoes, and it does indeed create nice, even slices, with the exception of the ends of the potato. But it takes a bit of torque on your arm to do it. I don't love the hand guard thing, it always feels like you're not really pushing the food item down, and you can't see whether you are, either.

I really like the construction otherwise, though. There is a knob that adjusts the width of slices and allows for a very fine degree of control. There are built in Julienne blades, in multiple sizes, that fold under the slide tray. The detachment mechanism for the main blade is a quite clever spring loaded switch, which pops the blade out very easily for cleaning. All pieces are dishwasher safe, and it truly is quite simple to do it, unlike some kitchen appliances.

Basically, I need practice. But for the price, this is a pretty good item to start with. I don't have any problems recommending it to beginning gourmands like myself.


Mead Academie Graphite Sketching Pencils, 12 per Tin (98020)
Mead Academie Graphite Sketching Pencils, 12 per Tin (98020)
Price: $14.80
2 used & new from $13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great pencils, so-so packaging, September 11, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a set of sketching pencils that range from 6B to 5H, with HB (pretty much a standard No. 2 pencil) in the middle. On the B side of the spectrum you have your very dark, very soft graphite pencils, good for shading but not much for fine detail work. On the far end of the H side you have a very sharp and hard piece of graphite, great for fine points but not so good for shading or filling. All of the pencils in this range have a nice feel, and they are definitely differentiated from each other (this isn't a Duff, Duff Lite, and Duff Dry sort of scenario).

They come packaged in a tin which is nice for keeping them from breaking or dulling, but the tin doesn't allow much ease in removing the pencils. They are so tightly packed that you'll either have to turn it upside down and hold in the undesired ones, or press down on the tip to lift your desired pencil out, which sort of belies the protective purpose of the tin. The tight packing also makes the pencils rather hard to turn around so that one can see its designation.

Still and all, these are really nice pencils that ought to fill the needs of anyone in an art class or those of a habitual sketcher.


Charmin Basic Toilet Paper 12 Huge Rolls (Pack of 4)
Charmin Basic Toilet Paper 12 Huge Rolls (Pack of 4)
Price: $42.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Very good strength, softness, roll size, and overall value, September 9, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This toilet paper is marketed as a budget option from a brand name. I think it fits the bill just fine, and if anything, I like it better than the "premium" stuff. There are a few reasons for this:

1. the rolls are indeed "Huge!" If anything, this is the only negative I can think of, they might not fit in some people's toilet roll fixtures. But if they do, you're set for a very long lasting roll.

2. The "glue" that keeps the roll together doesn't destroy the toilet paper itself. So many budget brands have you tearing through several layers to start a roll.

3. I'm a fan of one ply TP. Mainly because, at least in budget brands, 2 ply always comes apart, or isn't "synced" on the perforation.

4. This TP is indeed relatively strong while not feeling rough in the slightest. It definitely held up to the test case scenario, if you take my meaning.

Overall, at Amazon's current price, this is a great option for your staple toilet paper purchase. I personally don't miss any other fancier brand.


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