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Rob Szarka RSS Feed (Norwich, CT USA)

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Cupcakes, Trinkets, and Other Deadly Magic (Dowser Series Book 1)
Cupcakes, Trinkets, and Other Deadly Magic (Dowser Series Book 1)
Price: $0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Empty Calories, But Pretty Tasty, August 1, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
To be honest, I wasn't expecting a lot from this book when I downloaded it for free. But I wound up reading it in one sitting, so I guess it was pretty good after all. If you like mildly-erotic supernatural fantasy in the mold of Kim Harrison or Kelley Armstrong, I'd definitely recommend giving this one a try. Like Harrison's and Armstrong's books, this one falls into the "guilty pleasure" category for me, and Doidge isn't really up to their level, but this first book in the series still makes for fun late-night or beach reading, I'll definitely be checking out the next book in the series.

One complaint: this may not be the book to read if you're on a diet!


Mount Wittenberg Orca
Mount Wittenberg Orca
Price: $12.89
42 used & new from $3.17

4.0 out of 5 stars Small, But Delightful, June 6, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Mount Wittenberg Orca (Audio CD)
Somehow this EP slipped past me when it was released, but a chance encounter with "On and Ever Onward" prompted me to give it a try. The remainder of the 21 minutes did not disappoint. I'm not a big enough fan of Björk or the Dirty Projectors to accurately compare this to their other work, but for me it echoes both Steve Reich and Meredith Monk--if the two had decided to collaborate and make something accessible ("pop" would be an overstatement). "Beautiful Mother" even strikes me as slightly Zappaesque. Though there are lyrics, and the occasional bit of guitar, the vocals and the rhythms are the main focus. I'm not sure they will change your life, but they ought to brighten your day.


3.5mm Jack Stereo Radio Car Fm Transmitter for Smart Phone Mp3 Tablet (Black)
3.5mm Jack Stereo Radio Car Fm Transmitter for Smart Phone Mp3 Tablet (Black)
Offered by soonhua2013
Price: $6.19
3 used & new from $6.19

4.0 out of 5 stars A good value for the price, May 23, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As others have noted here, this is not the strongest FM transmitter in the world; on the other hand, the battery lasts pretty well, and never runs down if I keep it plugged into the cigarette lighter via the same adapter I use for my phone. Likewise, the sound quality isn't stellar, even for FM radio. But if, like me, you're mostly interested in listening to podcasts and such, it's fine.

The device is super-easy to use. My only real complaint is that it stops transmitting too quickly after detecting that there's no signal to transmit. In theory, I assume, this is to save power. In practice, I stop playback on my phone when I pull up to order at the drive-through, then wind up with an earful of static shortly before I would have restarted playback. Kind of annoying.

If I had paid $49.95, I'd be seriously disappointed. But, for less than $10, I can't complain. This little unit gets the job done.

Update: Other reviewers have commented on the relatively weak signal this unit produces. Although this hasn't been a problem where I live, I did notice during a recent trip to a larger city that there was far more static. If you live in an urban area, you may want to consider a more powerful unit. I remain happy with my purchase, though.


Sheezus(Deluxe)
Sheezus(Deluxe)
Price: $14.88
58 used & new from $9.16

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tries Too Hard (But Sometimes Succeeds), May 7, 2014
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This review is from: Sheezus(Deluxe) (Audio CD)
Even more than Allen's previous albums, Sheezus is a bit of a mess. Songs like the title track, the early single "Hard Out Here", "Silver Spoon". "Insincerely Yours", and "URL Badman" are heavy-handed, overly self-referential, and only fun in small doses. But dig a little deeper and there are some delightful moments that make the album worthwhile.

"Air Balloon" is the best of the singles released so far. Lyrically, it's as light as helium, but it provides a welcome contrast to the aforementioned tracks. "Our Time" is the anthemic soundtrack to the last hours of a night out on the town--not a song that will make you sit up and take notice, but pleasant enough in its own way. (Possibly the most conventional track on the album, it wouldn't be out of place in Katy Perry's catalog.)

"Close Your Eyes" is a slow jam with a pleasant groove and playful lyrics. Musically, it's spot-on, complete with auto-tuned effects, and I could see myself spinning it at 3 am for the right crowd. But the lyrics are full of Allen's trademark humor. Has anyone in pop music history ever urged their lover to ride them "like a bike"? Allen is at her best on this album when she's celebrating life with her new husband and children, as she does on this track and on "As Long As I Got You", which sets aside the electro-pop formula to revel in slide guitar and a rhythm track straight out of Louisiana. Despite the silly title, "L8 Cmmr" has a similar theme.

"Take My Place", which seems to be about Allen's problems with a miscarriage and a stillbirth before the birth of her two children, almost seems out of place on this album. But "Life for Me"--possibly the best track here--is similarly sincere, if much more upbeat. Again, Allen abandons the top of the pops formulas, this time in favor of tasty afro-pop guitar samples, giving the song a feel that recalls her breakout "LDN".

The album closes with the cover of Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" that was recorded for John Lewis' Christmas 2013 advert. I do enjoy Allen's version, even though it sounds unfinished. (It would be hard to ruin a song this good.) It's a nice way to close the album.

All of the above is wrapped in slick pop production courtesy of Greg Kurstin, with additional contributions from Shellback, DJ Dahi, and Karen Poole. Kurstin's imprimatur is worth almost as much as T Bone Burnett's in my book. He may have worked a little too hard on this one--Allen sometimes gets lost in the busy arrangements--but in general this album is a tasty pop confection from start to finish, and Kurstin's production almost manages to tie together Allen's diverse styles.

So, by my count, there are two outstanding tracks here, and perhaps a few more that will stay in heavy rotation in my media player once the album starts to wear thin. Not bad for a pop album, really.

Finally, as others have noted, the auto-rip download that accompanies the deluxe edition I purchased is the "clean" version. As a DJ, that's actually a feature for me. But consider yourself warned if having the explicit versions in your Amazon Cloud Player is important to you.


The United States Constitution
The United States Constitution
Price: $0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars The Bill of Rights Is Available Separately, November 30, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As others have noted, this ebook does not include the Amendments to the Constitution. However, the Bill of Rights is available in a separate free ebook titled "United States Bill of Rights".


Been a While
Been a While
Price: $8.91

5.0 out of 5 stars Shimmering, Sophisticated Pop, September 5, 2013
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This review is from: Been a While (MP3 Music)
I've been listening to Carl's music for a couple of decades now, and it just keeps getting better. Produced in his own PWOP Studios in funky New London, Connecticut, the sound on this album is top-notch; I've heard major-label releases that didn't sound this good. The music itself is the kind of sophisticated pop that no longer makes the charts--think Steely Dan--but ought to. The presence of John Scofield on "Chain Reaction" seals the deal!


Beowulf CD
Beowulf CD
by Anonymous
Edition: Audio CD
Price: $10.26
28 used & new from $2.60

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Dramatic Readings, Poor Packaging, August 14, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Beowulf CD (Audio CD)
While I'm not an expert in Old English, I can report that the readings on this disc are quite enjoyable. I first acquired them on cassette decades ago, and I have listened to them many times since. Recently I replaced my cassette with this CD. The quality is perfectly acceptable for a recording from the 60s, and I am will surely listen many more times to Bessinger's lively readings.

My one complaint is that the packaging contains less than the bare minimum you'd expect. It doesn't even include a proper track listing, so here's one for your reference:

[introduction] (0:14)
Caedmon's Hymn (1:00)
The Dream of the Rood (6:53)
The Wanderer (9:09)
The Battle of Brunan Burg (4:40)
A Wife's Lament (4:19)
Beowulf Lines 1-125 (8:32)
Beowulf Lines 195-225 (2:13)
Beowulf Lines 702-852 (9:51)
Beowulf Lines 3137-3180 (3:50)
[commercial] (1:22)
[commercial] (0:21)

Don't look to this CD for any background on the texts or even the performer. But it does deliver what's most important: 40+ minutes of Old English poetry, well-read and well-recorded.


The Definitive Guide to Outsourcing to the Philippines
The Definitive Guide to Outsourcing to the Philippines

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Was the proofreading of this book outsourced?, July 20, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I don't have any reason to doubt the quality of the advice in this book, even though the author is hardly shy about plugging his own services. But reading this book actually made me question the wisdom of outsourcing work to the Philippines.

Why? Well, I assume that Ducker followed his own advice and outsourced at least some of his editing, writing, and/or research tasks. Early in the book he mentions fluency in English as a strength of outsourced work in the Philippines, and later he tells us: "Not everyone is an English major, that's why you hire editors and proofreaders." Yet this book is poorly-written and riddled with grammatical errors!

Surely an expert like Ducker knows how to hire the best. If this is the best the Philippines has to offer, I think I'll look elsewhere!


Mike's Backyard
Mike's Backyard
Price: $0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Singing Songs & Drinking, July 17, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Mike's Backyard (MP3 Music)
Apparently, people were sitting around in Mike's backyard, singing. And drinking. They were drinking so much, in fact, that they apparently didn't notice, or didn't care, that a ship was sinking. Really, the events depicted in this song aren't terribly clear. But it sure sounds like they were having a good time doing it, whatever it was.

Blues. Moderate tempo. Recommended.


Hayek on Hayek: An Autobiographical Dialogue (Collected Works of F. A. Hayek)
Hayek on Hayek: An Autobiographical Dialogue (Collected Works of F. A. Hayek)
by F. A. Hayek
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.45
28 used & new from $8.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Hayek in his own words (sort of), May 24, 2013
The format of this "autobiographical dialogue" is quite interesting: after a relatively short introduction, passages from an unpublished Hayek memoir alternate with relevant questions chosen from eight different interview sources. Obviously, choosing answers from eight interviews conducted at different times in Hayek's life could be misleading, and the editors' discretion shaped this book a great deal. But the result is still an engaging take on Hayek "in his own words".

The book is not as useful to scholars as it could be, though. Although the source of each question is identified in broad terms, the bibliographic information is incomplete. It's not even clear what year each question was asked. I would like to see a longer book that presents the material in a way that's more useful for scholars, though it's still enjoyable for what it is.


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