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M. Strong RSS Feed (Milwaukee, WI USA)

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DEWALT DW059K-2 18-Volt NiCad 1/2-inch Cordless Impact Wrench Kit
DEWALT DW059K-2 18-Volt NiCad 1/2-inch Cordless Impact Wrench Kit
Price: $219.00
43 used & new from $219.00

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Power, portability and durability at a reasonable price, September 21, 2007
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I spend a lot of time at the track with my car and I end up doing a lot of wheel changes. I've owned a number of different tools for the job and borrowed a lot of others... which is how I came across this one and decided to buy it. I've been happy with it ever since. It delivers enough power - quickly - to break loose lug nuts that are on tight or are stuck in place by months of road grime. When tightening, it seats the wheel nicely against the hub. Overall, it makes the job of changing wheels much easier and much faster.

In addition to being useful and delivering power, it's been very durable (been knocked around more than its fair share) and shows reasonable battery life.

A good tool at a good price. Recommended.

Moby-Dick or, The Whale (Penguin Classics)
Moby-Dick or, The Whale (Penguin Classics)
by Herman Melville
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.64
197 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some "classics" aren't. This one is., September 21, 2007
A few years back I made a conscious decision to read (and in some cases re-read) a number of books that fall into the category of "classics." The books that stand the test of time the best have an uncanny ability to feel modern and relevant no matter how long ago they were written. It's almost as if there is a certain current that runs down through the years that flows with a permanence that most don't. If a writer can tap into this current, their writing can be timeless; a classic.

Herman Melville tapped into that current in spades in this story. Despite this book being over 150 years old, the themes Melville selected from many obviously available to him are themes that are just as relevant an engaging today as they were in 1851. Further, Melville somehow had a handle on using language that would not seem outdated even after a century and a half.

What you get is a great story about a revenge-obsessed man, characters to whom you can easily relate and colorful descriptions of the life of a whaleman. It all comes together beautifully.

Any drawbacks? Sure, Melville's story slows in the middle of the book as he goes into a deep examination of the physical characteristics of various whales, but it's still interesting and it's just not enough to take away from the rest of this novel.

Highly recommended.

Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842
Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842
by Nathaniel Philbrick
Edition: Hardcover
57 used & new from $1.23

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What? Was Philbrick there?, August 24, 2007
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Seriously, this is the fourth book I've read by Philbrick and I'm trying to figure out how he writes history so engagingly. When you read his work, you truly feel like you are witnessing the event as it happens with a God's-eye view. As a result you get absorbed in his telling of the story and learn while engrossed.

I think Philbrick accomplishes this little bit of literary magic by doing a huge amount of primary research, going through the journals of many of the story's characters and synthesizing a multi-dimensional picture of what went on. He then tells the story almost as if he were there. The result is truly impressive.

I had never heard of the US Exploring Expedition before reading this book and it kept me drawn in from cover to cover. The four year expedition was the first (maybe) to sight land in Antarctica, explored the mouth of the Columbia river, fought a battle in Fiji, measured volcanoes in Hawaii and brought back a collection of artifacts that formed the basis of the collection for the founding Smithsonian. Not bad for a single trip around the world. Throw in some nasty intrigue between the many officers on the expedition and you've got plenty of human drama to boot.

Give this one a read. You'll be glad you did.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 12, 2008 1:31 PM PST

Norwegian Wood
Norwegian Wood
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.48
159 used & new from $3.63

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The lesser horse in the Murakami stable, August 24, 2007
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
Having read "Kafka on the Shore," "Wind-up Bird Chronicle," "After Dark," "A Wild Sheep Chase" and two short story compilations by Murakami, I have become a big fan. He has a unique ability to explore life on the edge between two different existences and transport his readers to places they couldn't go without him.

Usually Murakami focuses on the border between real life and some sort of ethereal dream world; the border between the real and imagined. His ability to do it effectively creates a tremendous eerie sense in his books. Norwegian Wood is different in that it focuses on the border between sanity and insanity and between life and death and it doesn't work as well.

The book focuses on a college-age male main character who is "sane" and alive, but is drawn to those who are on the border of not being so. The depth that is so prevalent in Murakami's other works is nowhere to be found here, it just falls flat. His "insane" characters are mostly females whose main claim to "insanity" seems to be a weird relationship with sex. They have problems that can't be articulated by anyone in the book (including the author) and they come off seeming like they've just made the conscious decision to be weird. Not good.

Further, you never get any real sense of what is drawing the protagonist to these "broken" people. He just keeps obsessing over them with nary a reason to be found in the book.

I'd advise you to skip this one, but would highly recommend "Kafka" and "Wind-up Bird." If you like those try some of Murakami's others and if your dying for more, give this one a shot... maybe you'll see something in it that I didn't.

The Big Three in Economics: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes
The Big Three in Economics: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes
by Mark Skousen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.37
55 used & new from $18.40

44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I've rarely seen something this complex made this clear., August 6, 2007
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Skousen has really accomplished something with this book. If the average college professor could convey the information in their field of study with this kind of penetrating clarity, a lot more people would really understand what they learn, rather than just preparing to parrot it back for a test.

This book captures a broad cross-section of the ideas and history behind modern economic thought and ties it all neatly together by linking everything with the simple idea of relating it to Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes. It's brilliant in its simplicity. Skousen starts by saying these are the three you really need to know. Then he says they aren't created equal and ranks them out: #1 Smith, #2 Keynes, #3 Marx. Seems like nothing, but all of a sudden you have a simple and solid mental framework from which to hang the rest of what Skousen tells you.

For each of Skousen's three main characters, you learn about the thinkers that laid the foundation for each of them (or in Smith's case, the lack thereof). You also learn about the historic events that spurred each of them to come up with their theories. You learn each of their theories, then finally - and so critically - you learn in plain English the shortcomings of each of the theories (fatal in two cases).

All of a sudden, you have a deeper understanding of the history and ideas of economics than a lot people who majored in the subject. And because of Skousen's entertaining writing style, you never really noticed how much you were learning.

Kudos to Mark Skousen. I wish more people (myself included) could write like this.

If you've ever had even the slightest interest in economics, do yourself a favor and read this book. You'll be glad you did.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 4, 2014 10:35 PM PST

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (Incerto)
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (Incerto)
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.36
453 used & new from $0.02

113 of 123 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bad book for all the wrong reasons., July 23, 2007
I really wish this were a good book, because the basic idea behind it is original, important and clever. That makes Taleb's careless handling of his topic all the more disturbing.

The rock-solid foundation of this book is Taleb's insight that the most important events in history, and presumably to come in the future, are essentially unpredictable; they can't be forecast using the information we have prior to their occurrence. That's a huge point and Taleb goes on to offer some compelling evidence that it is indeed true. He uses the analogy of a Turkey deciding that humans must have his best interests at heart because they show up every day of his life to feed him a good meal, he projects that - based on all of his evidence - this will continue. This works great until a couple of days before Thanksgiving. Suddenly his predictions have failed him catastrophically.

Great idea, and - I believe - true. But Taleb undercuts his own thought baby with shoddy writing, poor research and personal opinion masquerading as evidence.

The writing: A well-written book allows a reader to flow naturally from one paragraph to the next and from one idea to the next, even when the subject matter is complex. Taleb's writing is tough to follow and slow to get through. Beyond that, you really struggle to comprehend what he is trying to get across to you for huge portions of this book.

The research: When Taleb used examples to back his ideas that came from fields with which I was unfamiliar, I felt pretty good about them. However, whenever he used examples from areas where I have deeper knowledge, I noticed that his knowledge was lacking badly (being a trader comes to mind). This started to make me question all of his supporting evidence.

The opinion: Taleb leans heavily on the idea that most of what happens in the world is luck, even when we try desperately to ascribe some sort of tangible cause to it. At one point he uses the example of Mac operating software being far superior to that of Windows, but Windows being dominant in the market. He chalks it up entirely to luck! I'm sure he'd say I'm falling prey to a logical fallacy, but Apple and Steve Jobs had a huge head start on Microsoft, but refused to let anyone else run their operating system - so to run it, you had to buy a Mac. Microsoft let anyone run their operating system and consequently took the dominant share of the market.

This book is really a shame. The idea is just too good to be used this poorly. It made me sad to read this thing. Taleb the thinker deserved a far better writer than Taleb the author. What a waste.

You might still try reading this to understand Taleb's idea, because it's a huge insight, but watch all of his other content because it's riddled with holes.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 3, 2010 8:37 PM PDT

Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader
Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader
by Dinesh D'Souza
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.69
179 used & new from $0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about a great President; captures Reagan in a way others don't., June 18, 2007
Most biographers who attempt to write about Ronald Reagan typically get frustrated at some point in their effort and throw up their hands saying, "I can't get to know this man!" Indeed, the man that some many of us felt close to without ever having met him was apparently a very tough nut to crack if you wanted to get close to him in person.

As a result, many biographies supposedly about Reagan offer very little insight into the man and what made him succeed and fail. They talk about his life and history, his advisers and their ideas, but they don't capture anything about the man that you wanted to learn about when you picked up the book in the first place - D'Souza does and that's what makes this book different and better from the rest.

D'Souza was a young aid in the Reagan White House and maybe that gives him a bit of an advantage in capturing the essence of Reagan, but I think most of the credit has to go to something far more fundamental; D'Souza hasn't lost the ability to see Reagan the way most Americans saw him, he hasn't lost sight of what America was like before Reagan compared to what it's like now. That gives D'Souza a perspective on Reagan that most academics (which D'Souza is) neglect. It makes all the difference in this book.

D'Souza really captures a man guided by a vision and a philosophy rather than by polls, a real leader rather than someone who went whichever way popular sentiment carried him. Reagan's ideas about America and its relationship to the rest of the world were positive, contrary to popular thoughts and, as it turns out, right.

If you like Reagan, you will love the way D'Souza articulates how the man accomplished everything he did. If you don't like Reagan, D'Souza's look at Reagan offers the best argument I've encountered that you'll have to counter in order to sway his supporters to your way of thinking.

Highly recommended. A great book about a great President.

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
by Nathaniel Philbrick
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.90
543 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All history should be so gripping., June 14, 2007
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If everyone could write history like Philbrick, we'd have more history majors than you could count. To be fair, much of what makes this particular effort so page-turning is the story that Philbrick selects, but he deserves credit for smart selection too.

This book recounts the tale of about 25 young men setting out from Nantucket in 1819 for a whaling voyage that would take them around the tip of South America and into the Pacific Ocean and was expected to last as long as two years - pretty typical for the time. Unfortunately for them, they would undergo a trial that would be so amazing that it would become the basis for Melville's Moby Dick.

The Whaleship Essex is attacked by an 85 foot Sperm Whale, and sunk. The crew of the ship get into three small whale boats and attempts to sail more than 1,000 miles to the coast of South America after deciding against closer islands for fear of cannibals (there is a very grim irony in this later in the story).

I won't tell you any more of the story, because it's far too fun to have it unfold for yourself as you read. I will say that the story itself is amazing and Philbrick puts you right in the middle of the action with his narrative and use of the notes of the men who were there. In the midst of the drama, you come away learning quite a bit about a way of life that has long since vanished.

The way history should be - having the feel of a being about people just like us, but in wholly different circumstances. Highly recommended.

Einstein: His Life and Universe
Einstein: His Life and Universe
by Walter Isaacson
Edition: Hardcover
549 used & new from $0.33

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every person of Einstein's stature should have a biography this good., June 12, 2007
When I want to learn about a historic figure, I always go looking for the definitive biography on that person. When you are really excited to learn about somebody and can't find that one definitive work on their life, it's terribly frustrating. For years, I've wanted to learn about Einstein but couldn't find the right book - Isaacson has permanently solved that problem.

Here is the biography that Einstein deserves. It is thorough, balanced and fair. It speculates in places only after announcing its intention to do so. The book is well-written and fascinating from its very beginning until its last page. Amongst the highlights: Isaacson spends a considerable amount of time analyzing Einstein's habit of standing away from the pack and how that trait helped him so much early in his career, but then hurt him later. There is also a fascinating summary of how Einstein thought and the way he approached life that made him so successful in physics.

I came away from this book with an amazing appreciation for the size of the mental chasms Einstein leaped in order to earn the immortal status he has today. I also learned about the person of Einstein, rather than the legend and the face you see so frequently on posters and coffee cups. He was far from flawed, but in the end really comes across as an amazing and good person.

Highly recommended - a thick book that will fly by.

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries
Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries
by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.75
100 used & new from $7.88

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Succeeds at making the complex knowable., May 31, 2007
I've read a decent number of "popular" science books, all aimed at making truly complex scientific concepts digestible for lay people. As I read Tyson's offering, I began thinking that he was covering ground that was far less complex than some books I'd read earlier. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Tyson was actually tackling some pretty challenging subject matter and simply doing a really nice job of describing the concepts in plain English.

Tyson discusses nuclear fusion, the birth and death of stars, the likelihood of life existing elsewhere in the universe, threats to the earth's existence and much more. To keep the pace fast and fun, he makes references to scientific movie goof-ups and other pop-culture science gaffs. Tyson even thoughtfully discusses intelligent design and religion as it relates to science.

If you've never read a science book written for the layperson, this is a great place to get your feet wet and see if you want to read more in the genre. If you're an old hand at this stuff, you'll like this one but may find it less challenging than other books in the same vein. Either way, it's a fun read and you'll learn a lot too.

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