Americana is Dying: Sears Sells off Craftsman Tools

A hand holding an end wrench.

A couple of days ago, I saw the shocking news that Sears was selling its Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker. To anyone with even a vague interest in working on cars during the last half of the 20th century, Craftsman is a legendary brand, the tool with a lifetime guarantee. At one time, Craftsman tools were a standard bearer in the world of tools, rivaled only by Snap-On and Mac among my gearhead friends in the ’90s.

For many who remember life before the internet, Craftsman is synonymous with Sears; the brand was only available at Sears stores until Sears acquired K-Mart and began limited Craftsman tools sales through K-Mart’s retail stores. Continue reading “Americana is Dying: Sears Sells off Craftsman Tools”

Can 2017 Really Be Different?

A ring of light around the moon.2016 was an awful year.

I’m being political. I ended 2015 in a major medical crisis. I spent most of 2016 trying to get well. I will forever remember 2016 as a year spent taking muscle relaxers, doing physical therapy, and learning how to cook the foods I love because I couldn’t leave the house to eat.

Many people I know had an awful 2016 as well. Sickness, financial loss, career setbacks.

It left me wondering if 2017 could really be different? Continue reading “Can 2017 Really Be Different?”

Cultural Christianity and the Gospel

This morning, I read a blog post penned as a break-up letter to American Cultural Christianity. It resonated with me in a way nothing has in a while. Maybe, in part, because the author left the country in 1999; the late ’90s was a time when I was most deeply immersed in Cultural Christianity.

It was also one of the darkest times of my life. Continue reading “Cultural Christianity and the Gospel”

PRODUCT REVIEW: Briefton’s Vertico Spiralizer

tl;dl version: Not great, Bob. But not terrible, either.
DISCLAIMER: Brieftons sent me this unit in exchange for an honest review.
 
This device has nearly 1000 reviews and a 4.5 star rating on Amazon. Most people love it. I didn’t. I didn’t hate it, either. I was perfectly ambivalent. And, currently priced at less than $25, maybe I don’t need to be impressed.
 
Don’t get me wrong, the spiralized veggies were great. They cooked up nice and it was really like having veggie pasta. The cleanup was a little harrowing. Maybe I made it harder than it needed to be, disassembling the unit. Really, though, even if it does take up less space than a traditional spiralizer, I don’t have room for it to stay out on my countertop or in my cabinets.
 
I’m perfectly willing to admit that my negative impressions may be mostly based on unfamiliarity with vegetable spiralizers in general. Maybe it’s not the Vertico’s fault, I’m just not equipped to appreciate it. Perhaps the Breifton’s Vertigo Spiralizer really is much better than other options on the market. It sure takes up very little space and it actually does create usable, spiraled veggies. However, I’m still giving it 3 stars, mainly because there were at least 3 manufacturing defects with the unit I received — which is indicative of some quality control issues at the factory that produced this units.
 
Other reviewers have noted that what I saw as “waste” was actually a safety measure to prevent the mechanism from getting caught in the blades. In fact, the “waste” was cut up and eaten, so it wasn’t really waste. However, there was 1/2 worth of uncut vegetables out of everything we spiraled — 2 inches total out of 2 zucchini. There was also a lot of seepage from the container that’s supposed to catch the spirals; simply designing the back of the tray so that it was a half inch taller than the other two sides would have stopped that.
 
At any rate, it’s not bad. I just wan’t impressed. I wanted to be. Maybe I had my expectations set too highly. Maybe the problem is me, not you.
 
You can read more of the positive 5-star reviews and buy your own Verico Spiralizer here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B015Q7ESF4?m=A2PQTWPWP4OTEY&ie=UTF8&keywords=spiralizer
 

On Halt and Catch Fire and the Show that Paved the Way For It

Halt and Catch Fire show has been criticized as a cheap rip-off of Mad Men, set in the ’80s, but the contrast between the two shows couldn’t be sharper.

While Mad Men was the story of a man whose entire life was a lie, trying to fit into a world overrun with corporatism and consumerism, Halt and Catch Fire is about people whose lives are anything but a lie, a cast of highly intelligent misfits trying to create a new world which fits them instead of conforming to a world in which they don’t fit.

While Mad Men embraced the glamor and romanticism of 1960s America while the occasional nods to the cultural and political turmoil of the times, Halt and Catch Fire almost entirely ignores politics and culture, instead putting its characters in the trenches and letting us watch as each of them battle society as it affects them personally, in the moment.

Both shows push concepts of morality. While the good guys on Mad Men would often lie — and once resorted to outright prostitution — to get a deal that might only last a few weeks (“The day you sign a client is the day you lose them,” Roger Sterling once quipped on the show.), the good guys on Halt and Catch Fire will steal computers out of the back of a van, steal electricity from their neighbors, and steal money out of someone else’s bank account in order to keep the dream at the heart of the show alive.

Mad Men celebrated a world of big business set against the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the ritziest seasides of Los Angeles, delving into the moral ambiguities associated with big business. Halt and Catch Fire, on the other hand, celebrates the kind of entrepreneurialism born in a garage, the ragged-edge scrap to make something from nothing, the kind of “ends justify the means” mentality that is celebrated in movies like PIRATES OF SILICON VALLEY.

Like Mad Men, the writers on Halt and Catch Fire exercise a multi-layered approach to storytelling. Small, insignificant moments in one episode turn into major plot points episodes later. Both shows reward viewers who pay close attention, and both shows stand up well to repeated viewings.

Yet, while Mad Men had its own share of sparkling and hilarious dialogue, I could never imagine the following conversation being effective on Mad Men:

Joe: “Nathan’s making a mistake selling the company so soon, it’s worth at least twenty-percent more than this valuation.”

Gordon: “Yeah? Well I think it was a mistake to burn a truck full of our computers and then go running off into the woods.”

Joe: Pause. “Lot of mistakes, all around.”

According to the ratings, Halt and Catch Fire is a show nobody watches. That’s a shame. It’s not Mad Men, but it is its own show. It’s great in its own way.

Product Review: DKnight MagicBox II Bluetooth Speaker

Disclaimer: DKnight sent me a unit for free in exchange for an honest review.

The DKnight MagicBox II puts out impressive sound for such a small speaker. It’s a 10 watt, bluetooth 4.0 speaker with incredible battery life. I’ve had mine for 2 1/2 weeks now and it still shows a full charge.

While DKnight includes a bass pad and promotes the MagicBox II on its bass-producing abilities, the music I listen to really doesn’t require much bass output. However, when listening to classical, the MagicBox II has a bright sound with a high degree of clarity and you can hear the separation of instruments. It’s truly an incredible experience, especially for speakers at this price range.

The MagicBox II is advertised with a range of 30 feet, and I’ve found that the range is indeed very good. However, when listening indoors, walls do tend to reduce the range, and even if I’m very close to the speaker, I experience intermittent interruptions playing music off my phone when my phone is in my pocket. However, I can leave my phone on the kitchen counter and take the MagicBox II outside and listen on the patio with no interruptions.

Overall, I really love this device. I think anyone shopping for a bluetooth speaker should check it out. It won’t provide the same sound experience as big name brands like Beats, JBL, Bose, or Sonos, but for the price, the sound is absolutely incredible. I highly recommend it.

Product Review: Ben-Q WiT Intelligent E-Reading Light

Can any lamp be worth $249?

The Ben-Q WiT can be if you think of it less as a lamp, and more of a piece of lighting technology.

For professionals who work on computers all day, who suffer from eye-strain or eye-fatigue, this piece of technology could actually provide relief. This is probably a product best suited for corporate and enterprise use. For everyone else, it may be a stretch.

However, the Ben-Q is a solid, high-quality, well-built piece of lighting technology unlike anything else on the market — with intelligent ambient lighting technology and adjustable LEDs, it’s definitely head and shoulders above any $20 lamp you’ll find at the local hardware store.

If you think this lamp might be right for you, you can purchase through Amazon here: http://www.amztk.com/task-light

DISCLAIMER: Ben-Q sent me this item in exchange for an honest review. If I sound impressed with this device, it’s because I really am.

Technical note: For some reason, my equipment never cooperated with for this review. I probably shot nearly two hours of footage only to end up using a take with hissy audio. The take that I had clear audio had severe focus issues, and I have almost an hour of review footage with no audio whatsoever. I tried to do better, but I hit a deadline on this one…

#BenQ

PRODUCT REVIEW: Bael Wellness Seat Cushion

I’m trying my hand with product reviews. This particular review is for the Bael Wellness Seat Cushion, which is designed to help with a number of back problems. I have degenerative disc disease and had spent two weeks bedridden because of a tailbone problem prior to receiving the Bael Wellness Seat Cushion, so the timing couldn’t have been better.

DISCLAIMER: Bael Wellness sent me this product at a discount in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase or see other reviews of the Bael Wellness Seat Cushion here: https://www.amazon.com/Bael-Wellness-Sciatica-Orthopedic-Tailbone/dp/B00HUJWBHY

#BaelSeatCushion

 

The Truth About the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban and the AR-15

The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban not actually ban the manufacture or sale of the AR-15 rifle. Yet, I keep reading both on social media and in mainstream media that we need to re-instate the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in order to keep people from purchasing AR-15 rifles.

DISCLAIMER:

I understand that gun control is a touchy subject. I am trying to be respectful of everyone’s feelings on the subject, regardless of what those feelings are. However, there is a lot of gross misinformation being passed around as fact, particularly with regards to the AR-15 rife and the Clinton-era Federal Assault Weapons Ban.

When engaging in a discussion of an issue such as gun control, I believe one should be as accurate in their terminology and as researched as possible. This goes for both sides of the argument. Continue reading “The Truth About the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban and the AR-15”