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Customer Reviews: 19
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Chris LaVesser "Eminent Goofball & Useful Citizen" RSS Feed (Milwaukee, WI)

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The Satanic Verses: A Novel
The Satanic Verses: A Novel
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $8.59

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Falling in love with prose again..., October 17, 2012
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The Satanic Verses is a book I've had on my bookshelf for a few years now, having purchased it with every intention of reading it, but never quite pulling it from the shelf to do so.

I now regret that procrastination - deeply.

I finally began reading the book when all of Islam reared its how-dare-you-criticize-us head again following the posting of an amateur movie on YouTube. By the time violence had erupted in 20+ countries and a Fatwa had been issued on the "artist" responsible for the video, I thought, "Hmph, that Salman Rushdie went through this Fatwa business. I should read that book he wrote."

My reading tastes tend to be cyclic: fiction, non-fiction, favorite author, new author, a best-seller, a classic, fiction, non-fiction, etc. But every once in a while I simply need to read something that features beautiful, daring, insightful, and even opaque prose. Sometimes I want to read a sentence over and over again not because it was informative or advanced the story well, but because the sentence itself was beautiful, as well as informative. That's exactly what happens once or twice on every page of The Satanic Verses. There are entire passages I've read three times simply to revel in the splendor of how much I enjoy how the passage was written.

Over and over again I find myself positively grinning, and positively in awe, over Rushdie's ability to weave gems of sentences out of the most simple plot element or character description. I've found similar pleasure in Tom Robbins' novels, but alas, have read them all (some of them thrice), and I've been delighted to finally dive into The Satanic Verses and find someone who writes in a way that makes you notice the sentences, instead of just passing them by.

As well, the story is complex and twisted, passionate and aloof, funny and heart-breaking - all at once.

I still don't see why anyone wanted Rushdie dead, but I reckon it's because they were only seeing offensive adjectives, and not appreciating the wonderfully woven and sometimes critical (insightful) art.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 9, 2012 3:26 PM PST

HP Pavilion p7-1220 Desktop
HP Pavilion p7-1220 Desktop

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Hardware For The Money - Loaded With Bloatware, July 18, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The HP Pavilion P7-1220 is a nicely-equipped PC for the money. And we've been happy with how it performs for our usage: Windows 7 Home-Premium (64-bit), Office 2010 Professional (64-bit), iTunes, Garmin software, Photoshop Elements, Windows Live Movie Maker, Google Chrome, etc. We are able to run multiple programs simultaneously without any problems. And the performance, storage, and connectivity are all adequate for our frequent use.

Footnote 1: HP loads this PC with bloatware, and they are not inclined to assist with its removal. I called HP and said I wanted a copy of the Windows 7 DVD so I could do a clean install to remove all the unwanted pre-loaded software. HP said, categorically, 'no'. I therefore got hold of a Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) DVD and did a clean install anyway, using the license number on the computer's case. I had to spend a few minutes online with Microsoft to re-verify the license's authenticity, but the process was largely painless.

With a clean install of Windows 7, this PC really works well and is a great bargain for the money.

Footnote 2: Gamers will probably not want this PC; it has no dedicated graphics card memory, but rather, gets an allocation of system memory based on the operating system's calculus.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 20, 2012 1:37 PM PDT

Asus VH232H 23-Inch Full-HD LCD Monitor with Integrated Speakers
Asus VH232H 23-Inch Full-HD LCD Monitor with Integrated Speakers
2 used & new from $139.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Monitor - Check Your Pixels, July 18, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
We are pleased with our Asus VH232H monitor. The monitor's size provides a lot of computing real estate and makes it easy to work on multiple documents or programs simultaneously. The colors are bright and vibrant with excellent contrast. And the resolution is sharp. The built-in speakers are adequate for regular computing noises and background music. But I reckon that hard-core gamers will want an independent speaker system. The multiple inputs also make this monitor versatile.

I gave the monitor four stars instead of five for only one reason: the first monitor we received had to be returned. Several pixels were stuck on red. But Amazon's customer service is outstanding, and we had a replacement monitor in less than 48 hours. The replacement has worked flawlessly.

This is a great monitor for the price!

AutoLoc SBEXTN Tan 12" Seat Belt Extender
AutoLoc SBEXTN Tan 12" Seat Belt Extender
Price: $20.72
3 used & new from $19.95

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple and Functional, October 4, 2011
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I had a problem to solve: Grandma's Chevy Cavalier had a seat belt that was a little too short for her. When drawn around her adorable, rotund frame, it was rather taught, and dug painfully into her neck.

Solution: I purchased this 12" seat belt extender, grabbed a ratchet and a box wrench, and drove to Grandma's house. In less than 10 minutes I had the extender installed. And on two occasions since, Grandma has commented on how much happier she is.

Note: Some vehicles use Torx-head bolts to secure the seat belt to the floor/frame. These can be unusual sizes. While the seat belt extender itself comes with common-sized hardware, you will also have to re-use the factory seat belt bolt to install it, so you'll need an appropriate wrench/bit to remove and re-install it. Check your setup before going to work, and you'll avoid having to go to the hardware store eleventeen times.

Great product, fast shipping, and Grandma is rather satisfied!

Mr. Coffee CGX23 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker, Black
Mr. Coffee CGX23 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker, Black
Price: $29.99
4 used & new from $25.00

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Function Without Longevity Is Useless, January 3, 2011
The Good:
I liked this pot because it was simple and had the basic essential functions - Simple to use, programmable, auto shut-off, good capacity, and no useless frills. From the moment I set it up I was pleased with its performance and ease of use.
The Bad:
Like other reviewers have mentioned, this coffee maker is not long for this world. After 4 short months of use, the pump failed. The coffee maker now spurts, chokes, and cries its way through each pot. And the surges of water into the basket will often displace the filter, meaning grounds can end up anywhere.

I am a fan of simple devices because simple devices usually have less complexity, and therefore, fewer failure modes. I had high hopes this would be one of those products. But alas, it failed anyway.

Note: The failure is not due to high levels of deposits in my water. My previous coffee maker endured more than 5 years of my tap water, and probably would have gone on longer, had I not broken it. And my clothes iron has endured the same 5 years of tap water, and it still performs admirably.

Be careful with this pot; it gets tired too quickly.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 17, 2012 8:04 AM PDT

Crank Brothers Egg Beater SL Bicycle Pedal (Pink Spring)
Crank Brothers Egg Beater SL Bicycle Pedal (Pink Spring)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Egg Beaters - Simple and Spectacular, June 24, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I expect my pedals to keep me connected to my bike, until I'm ready to come out. I expect you expect your pedals to do the same. And to these ends we must all choose our pedals.

In nearly every facet of my life I favor function over form, and I favor reliability over feature richness. A pretty thing that doesn't work when I need it to is useless. A multi-functional device that achieves mediocrity in its 26 capabilities will fall short of my expectations when I most need it. I demand something simple, functional, and reliable.

Enter the Crank Brothers Egg Beater pedals! These are, quite simply, simplicity. You'd be hard pressed to engineer a mountain biking pedal that performs as reliably and has fewer failure modes than the Egg Beater. I ride HARD, and I have never been disappointed with my decision to ride Egg Beaters on all my mountain bikes. These pedals work reliably when they're clean, when they're dirty, and anywhere in between.

There are several models of Egg Beaters. I find the SL model is a perfect balance between price and weight. If I was fast enough to need titanium pedals, I'd have a sponsor. So I buy the SL models because they are STRONG and affordable. But I reckon you'll find the same simple reliability in all the Egg Beater models.

Get a pair, and pedal hard.

TRX Suspension Trainer Basic Kit + Door Anchor
TRX Suspension Trainer Basic Kit + Door Anchor
Price: $178.95
10 used & new from $144.99

296 of 306 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great tool for on-the-go workouts, May 12, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As an avid gym-rat who gets a little twitchy when he misses a workout, I was looking for something I could use to get a good strength training workout while traveling on vacation or for work. The personal trainers at our gym introduced me to the TRX system and I ordered one to give it a try.

In the few short weeks I've owned it, I have been able to take the TRX Home Training Bundle on a camping trip, on a business trip, and to work with me for a 2-day IT system crash event.

While camping I was able to use trees and the rafters in a pavilion to support the TRX system, and found both made easy platforms for great workouts. At hotels and while trapped at work for two days, I was able to use the door mount to sneak in some workouts, and I found that platform to be stable as well.

So it seems to me you can almost always find a place to mount the TRX system, as long as you exercise a little common sense about doing so safely. And once it's mounted securely, the TRX system is quite versatile, and allowed me to perform many exercises to get a completely taxing strength workout. The system is simple to use and well-marked for making quick changes between exercises. For the configurations that are less intuitive, the included book provides good illustrations, tips, and tricks.

The only reason I withheld a 5th star on this review is because of the way the TRX system is constructed. The materials and workmanship seem solid to me. But the product is finished in such a way that very little of the system is modular. That is to say, if you were ever to wear out a pad on one of the handles, replacing it would require a lot of craftsmanship, not just a simple swap-out. So I expect that needing to replace any component on the TRX system would likely be met with having to replace the whole kit and kaboodle. I think a modular design would allow me to be more aggressive with the unit while making me comfortable I could replace parts fairly inexpensively. ('Cause let's face it, nearly $200 for nylon and ingenuity is pushing it anyway).

No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refurb is great!, March 15, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
If you, like me, are contemplating a refurbished Garmin Nuvi 255W, don't hesitate. I have found it to be a great value.

Refurb provides a measurable savings over a brand new model.
Garmin backs it with full warranties and benefits (I was able to download map and software updates for free within 30 days of my purchase).
All normal packaging, materials, and included accessories are included with the refurbs.

Simple to use.
Easy to install.
As accurate as other GPS units I've used (friends and family).
Can be customized through free downloads from Garmin.
Easy to connect to a computer for planning, saving favorites, etc. (I used a Mac and had no technical problems. Software is free from Garmin. (Extra maps are not free))

Garmin's user interface is not always intuitive. But once you get accustomed to it, it's a breeze to use.
Mac users will have to do a little research to connect and manage the Nuvi; it's not always intuitive or well-documented.

As someone who was looking for a value and wanted a reliable product, I've found what I was after. I've had this unit for a over a month, and have used it on two roadtrips and locally. The unit has performed well, has been profoundly accurate (though not perfect), and is more-or-less a breeze to use.

Nikon Forestry 550 Hypsometer Rangefinder Spotting Scope
Nikon Forestry 550 Hypsometer Rangefinder Spotting Scope

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasing Product Even For Off-Label Use, November 30, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Though I am not in the forestry field, either for work or play, I settled on this model of laser rangefinder because of its hypsometric capabilities. I've been using the Nikon Forestry 550 Hypsometer Rangefinder to establish the heights of various buildings, antennas, bridges, and cliffs. And because I wouldn't always have the time to do the geometry calculations on my own, I settled on this model, with its built-in understanding of Pythagoras' elegant formula.

This tool is simple to use, accurate enough for my purposes, and seems to have just enough features and settings to tackle a wide variety of rangefinding tasks. So if you're potentially interested in how high something is, or how wide a span is, rather than simply how far away something is, give this model some consideration. This device not only measures distance, but also has an internal inclinometer for measuring its angle with respect to horizontal. Therefore, with some basic mathematical assumptions, a range datum, and an angle datum, this device calculates all three sides of a triangle in one measurement. As long as you take the time to understand the mathematical assumptions the device must make, you can put this tool to use in many areas of measurement. Thus far I give it my highest recommendation.

Note: I have not exercised this device enough to make any commentary on its battery life.

Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are
Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are
by Daniel Nettle
Edition: Hardcover
55 used & new from $4.51

58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, approachable update on the subject of personality, May 9, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've always known I'm not like my family and friends. In our circle I'm definitely the odd man out. And I've known this since I was 19 or 20 years old. So fairly early in my life I was interested in why I was different, why I didn't mind being different, and why I always struggled when I tried to just fit in. I've read Myers-Briggs and other "modern" models of personality and took interest in them. And in them I usually found some nuggets of explanatory wisdom. So I had largely stopped reading about personality.

But I casually glanced at Nettles' book one day and found myself thinking, "A new model of personality? One with widespread support and evolutionary underpinnings? Damn. I'm going to have to read it."

And I'm glad I did. First, this book fills a void. Most psychology books for a consumer audience are so watered down and trite they fail to really teach anything. They're usually worse than the drivel you find in Cosmopolitan or Men's Health. Try searching for psychology books with a more intelligent bent to them and you quickly find yourself shoulder-deep in academic, jargon-laden prose. Nettles' book is a brilliant bridge between these two worlds. Personality: What Makes You The Way You Are is an excellent presentation of a newer model of personality theory. It is rich in back-story, supported by summaries of various experiments, bolstered by real statistical concepts instead of dumbing it down to "the average", and keeps itself wrapped in an evolutionary biology framework. And it does all of this without getting overly academic.

For those who lean toward Cosmopolitan and Men's Health, Nettles includes a personality inventory you can self-administer, and it makes the content of the book more personally relevant. Personality is also a quick read (I read through it on two flights between Minneapolis and Salt Lake City). And the book is laced with humor throughout.

For those who prefer academia, Personality is well-referenced and has a comprehensive bibliography and set of appendices. It is solid and honest academic work; it just reads better.

About the only warning I'll make is this: Nettles is a Brit. If you get confused by British spellings, idiom, and geographical references, you may occasionally find yourself scratching your head. But all this tells me is you don't read enough Nick Hornby.

Enjoy! I believe you will.

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