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Content by Tracy Rowan
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Reviews Written by
Tracy Rowan "Tracy Rowan" (Chicago, IL USA)

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Hipo By Ivation EB-5200 5200mAh (5V/1A output) Portable Power Bank External Backup Battery and Charger for all iPhones, iPods, iPads, phones, Smart Phones, Cambers, and any Electric item that Charges VIA USB
Hipo By Ivation EB-5200 5200mAh (5V/1A output) Portable Power Bank External Backup Battery and Charger for all iPhones, iPods, iPads, phones, Smart Phones, Cambers, and any Electric item that Charges VIA USB

4.0 out of 5 stars Very handy for phones, won't work with Kindle., March 29 2013
Disclaimer: I received a sample of this item in exchange for an unbiased review.

It's maddening to be out and about, and discover that your cell phone is nearly dead. If you're like me, your phone is something of a lifeline. I've used it to keep in touch with elderly family members, monitor home security and get directions, all of which have been pretty critical at the time. A dead phone battery would have been a disaster. That's why I'm thrilled to have the HIPE battery backup, a very compact, portable, phone battery charger that juices up my phone quickly and reliably. The charger itself can be plugged into the wall, or into a computer to recharge.

What it will not do, in spite of the assurance that it charges "any Electric item that Charges VIA USB" is charge a Kindle. My Fire uses the same USB connector as my Android-based phone, and while the phone charged perfectly, the HIPE actually drained what was left of the Kindle battery. This is a disappointment because it means I can't use the HIPE to keep my Kindle running while I'm out.

In spite of that I'm really pleased with this charger and would recommend it with the caveat that it might not work as advertised with all devices.

DB-Tech BD-WA65 Battery Operated Water Alarm with a 6 Foot Detachable Sensor - Detects Leaks and Saves Your Home!
DB-Tech BD-WA65 Battery Operated Water Alarm with a 6 Foot Detachable Sensor - Detects Leaks and Saves Your Home!
3 used & new from CDN$ 57.47

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does the job, seems a bit flimsy, March 25 2013
Most of my criticisms of this unit don't have anything to do with its ability to do the job. I made sure it would by wetting the probe and being deafened by the alarm. Yes, it's a loud sucker. You'll hear it from the basement for sure. A little bit of water makes it squeak, more makes it shriek. And there's no off button, which means that until you pull the probe out of the water and dry it off, it's going to keep on shrieking, though it would seem to do so intermittently if it's not standing in water.

Yes it's a bit flimsy; the bulk of the unit is hollow, meant to hold the battery (awkward design for the battery) and the probe cord. But that's a small thing so long as it does its job. The unit itself is designed to be well above any flooding with the probe on a very long cord. You can hang the unit or possibly even place it on the steps to the basement for easy access.

All things considered, this is a wonderfully inexpensive early warning system for flooding or leaks. Yes it could be more solid and compact, but if it does the job, it hardly makes a difference. Yes it could provide more coverage but you'd be getting into a lot more expense. Basically what you've got here is an alarm that can alert you to issues in problem areas, and for this purpose it seems to be terrific. For overall early warning, you'll probably need a much more sophisticated and expensive tool.

No Title Available

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bright and easy to read, March 25 2013
Right out of the box this clock was impressive because it comes pre-programmed. In fact it threw me for a loop because the day of the week is tied into the date, which means somewhere in there is a program that is keeping track of the year. And here's my first criticism: If the clock knows the year, why isn't it displayed? The instructions suggest that there is a year display but I've found no evidence of one. I have an email in to the company asking about it, but so far no response. If and when I receive one I'll cheerfully update this review.

The clock itself is so large that I initially felt that its primary use is more commercial than residential. But I remembered my caregiver days and realized that this would have been a fantastically useful item for both my parents, but particularly for my mother who suffered from severe visual impairment. I have it set up in my living room in daylight and I don't find the unlit LEDs to be in any way distracting. The clock has three brightness settings (In spite of what some other reviewers have said, you can dim it.) however if you're planning on using it in a bedroom, the lowest setting might still be too bright. And here's where my second complaint comes in: If you want to hang it, there's no easy way to access the controls. It might have been nice to have the dimmer control in an easy-to-reach spot. As it is, you can only dim it with relative ease if you are using it on a flat surface. Ditto setting it, though supposedly there is no need to reset the clock in the event of a power failure. The AC adapter has a good long cord, so you do have a certain amount of flexibility about placement.

As for hanging the clock, it requires two screws. One won't cut it unless you want to hang it sideways, which would be a decorating statement, certainly, but not terrifically useful. Alas, the company has seen fit to include only one screw and one anchor. Kinda sloppy.

Also sloppy is the fact that the box says "calander clock" instead of "calendar clock." Call me a grammar nerd if you want, but that's not a positive representation of the company, in my opinion. It made me wonder if the clock itself was going to be cheap and badly designed. Fortunately aside from the few minor problems noted above, it seems to be a product of reasonably good quality. Time will tell -- excuse the pun -- if it has staying power.

Adobe Photoshop CS Upgrade
Adobe Photoshop CS Upgrade

2.0 out of 5 stars Bitter disappointment from Adobe, June 16 2004
I ordered my upgrade from, feeling certain that Adobe would continue to provide high quality software. Yes, it's premium-priced, but it's always been worth it. So worth it that while I waited for the package to arrive, I downloaded the tryout program.
Right from the start, I had problems. (And before I go any further, let me just say that this is not a resources issue. I have more than enough RAM, disk space and power to run this puppy.) It took forever to install and a long time to boot up. Finally I got it up and running, changed a few settings, including telling it where to look for my filters and plug-ins, shut it down and rebooted. And it refused to start. Told me a file was missing. So I tried again. Same error message. I reinstalled per their instructions. Booted up. Another crash, same error message. I don't really know how a file can be missing if I've just installed it.
So I uninstalled everything, reinstalled (This is installation #3. It's going on an hour and a half now, between the download and the installation issues) and booted up. No problem. I pointed the program to my plug-ins directory, shut down and rebooted. Guess what? Yup, crashed on boot-up again, and again I got the file missing message. Long story short: Photoshop CS won't use or even recognize any of my plug-ins from PS7. None.
While it offers nothing new in the way of its own filters, the plug-in gallery is a nice touch and too long in coming. Unfortunately if I have more than about 10Mb of images open doing anything in the gallery crashes the program. I'm sure there ae a lot of wonderful features in this program, but judging by my own experiences with the try out, and the customer reviews (I should have read them before ordering!) I can tell you that the package is going back as soon as it arrives. And if Adobe doesn't get its act together, it's lost me as a customer. And I've been a devoted user since PShop3.

Einsteins Dreams: A Novel
Einsteins Dreams: A Novel
by Alan Lightman
Edition: Paperback
81 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm a little surprised..., May 11 2004
I've read through about a dozen reviews so far and I'm rather surprised that no one seems to have gone beyond the obvious discussion of this book. We all see that these are interesting vignettes about how time might behave in different realities. But beyond that, these are vignettes about how we live. Take, for example, the vignette about the world where you can gain time by moving faster and faster. Because time is money, businesses fly about the town on wheels, powered by huge engines. Inside the office building, desks zip around each floor. The faster the workers move, the greater their productivity. There is one problem though, that of perception of the velocity of others. And sometimes a worker will become so upset by his perception that others are moving faster than he is, he will stop moving at all. He will retire to his home, pull down the shades and live within his family. Live a simple, content life without all the rushing about. This is a pretty clear metaphor for the increasing speed at which we live, and those who reject the need to live in that manner.
Some vignettes are simple to interpret -- the world where time moves more and more slowly until, as you get to the center of the town, it almost stops. People go there to preserve a childhood, a love, their lives. A kiss can be nearly infinite. Children grow more slowly than redwoods, and never lose their innocence. Some are more difficult. But each one carries some deeper meaning about human life, and how we choose to live it. And the narrative of Einstein as a patent clerk echoes those ideas, as you watch the choices he's made.
This book isn't simply about bringing together science and literature, it's about science and philosophy, science and human nature. It's about how each of us lives so differently, we might all be living in a different temporal reality. Quite simply, it's a wonderful book, that will make you think, and stay with you for a long time. Highly recommended.

Artists' Journals and Sketchbooks: Exploring and Creating Personal Pages
Artists' Journals and Sketchbooks: Exploring and Creating Personal Pages
by Lynne Perrella
Edition: Paperback
22 used & new from CDN$ 2.83

5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, you do need this book, April 20 2004
I don't care how many books you have on altered books, artists' journals, etc., this is a book you'll come back to over and over again. It presents material in an orderly fashion, though never in a predictable one. Not only is each technique or idea explained, but there are examples of each. The only people who might not benefit from this book are the ones who need a literal cookbook of instructions: "Take item A, place three inches from top of item B, on the left." Highly recommended both as inspiration and an easy-to-use reference work.

Daily Life in Russia under the Last Tsar
Daily Life in Russia under the Last Tsar
by Henri Troyat
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 33.54
25 used & new from CDN$ 2.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary picture of pre-revolutionary Russia, Feb. 17 2004
I have stacks of books about this era, and about Russia in general, but none of them give the flavor of the time and place quite so vividly as Troyat's narrative. He follows the adventures of a British businessman who is virtually adopted by a Russian family during his first visit to Moscow. The descriptions of family life, night life -- including the theater, the ballet, and restaurants and cabarets, of religion, and even of the streets, are filtered through the consciousness of a stranger, and so are more clearly described and, where necessary, explained than in books in which everyday life is more of a background to the rest of the narrative.
If you're a student of Russian history, particularly the history of this particular era, this book is highly recommended. For writers who are researching the era, this is on the level of the Writer's Digest "Everyday Life..." series for information, and really indispensable. Even so, this is not some dry text. It's lively and occasionally amusing, and always fascinating.

The Secret Life of Humphrey Bogart: The Early Years (1899-1931)
The Secret Life of Humphrey Bogart: The Early Years (1899-1931)
by Darwin Porter
Edition: Paperback
17 used & new from CDN$ 14.76

1.0 out of 5 stars This has to be a joke, Nov. 24 2003
Possibly the worst-written bio I've ever read, and the most unbelievable. Here's a quick run-down so you don't have to bother:
1) Everyone has slept with everyone else except for Bogart and Bette Davis. Everyone. No point in keeping score because they're all doing it.
2) Most surreal moment, hands down, is George O'Brien showing Bogie an intimate part of his anatomy (and probably not the one you're thinking of!) and then explaining how he keeps it so young-looking, and tasty.
3) Most interactions between people include long conversations which the author could not possibly have been privy to, including a lot of pillow talk. Draw your own conclusions.
4) The narrative is riddled with inconsistencies as small as an inability to decide whether Bogart's favorite meal was ham and eggs or bacon and eggs (and who really cares anyway?), and as large as one minute he likes a salty-talking babe and the next he finds her incredibly vulgar and off-putting. Did anyone edit this manuscript?
5) Fairly obvious lack of familiarity with female anatomy makes a few scenes laughable.
6) The single most cliche-ridden text I have ever had the misfortune to read.
7) The author manages to make real people, people like Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks (Jr and Sr) seem like caricatures or pieces of wood...or both.
8) By page 400, any salacious thrills have descended to the level of "Please your mate" spam.
9) Bogart comes across very badly; if you're a big fan, skip this. There are only so many times he can be shocked by the goings-on before you start to want to give him a dime to buy a clue. At best, the author writes him like a teenage girl.
10) Every attempt at conveying a deeply emotional scene is hilariously inept.
I feel like I need a great big brush to clean out my brain, now. If I could give negative stars, this book would've earned a -5.

Last Stop Vienna: A Novel
Last Stop Vienna: A Novel
by Andrew Nagorski
Edition: Hardcover
32 used & new from CDN$ 0.25

3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, March 9 2003
Nagorski is probably an excellent journalist. He can write, but his characterization and plotting isn't up to snuff here. The protagonist (I hesitate to use the word "hero" in this case.) is a yound man who learns absolutely nothing in the nearly 300 pages of this book. He begins as an angry, irresponsible teenager who deserts his widowed mother in the aftermath of the first World War, and he ends as a prisoner who came to hate the man (Hitler) he once worshipped, but still shares Hitler's values and beliefs. Perhaps this would have worked in a book about private people, but once you involve a public figure like Hitler, the story you're telling will grow to fit the myth that surrounds that figure.
I think referring to this novel as an alternate history is perhaps misleading. The event which makes it so occurs at the very end of the novel, and we're never really given any indication of how the event changes history as we know it. And that too, is a disappointment.

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated
Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated
by Gore Vidal
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.38
71 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A bit thin, but cogent nonetheless, Feb. 21 2003
Vidal is not prone to hyperbole, nor is he a dealer in questionable "facts." He is a defender of the American Republic, and the laws which were designed to uphold and defend that Republic. Laws which have been under attack by both the right and the left since the end of WWII.
This book will leave you angry, it will leave you sad. Perhaps it will leave you with a desire to do something to try to preserve the organizing principles of this country. At the very least, you should come to understand why the United States has, since the second World War, become symbolic of tyranny, injustice and even terrorism to so many people on this planet.
It's time to stop kidding ourselves that we're hated because we have more, because we're richer or more powerful, or have more freedoms. We're hated, in large part, because we have, since 1947, been waging perpetual war all over the globe.

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