Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category.

Review of Outback Trading Men’s 1497 River Guide UPF 50 Waterproof Breathable Outdoor Cotton Oilskin Hat: Bad


The hat smells of… I can think of no better description: hot asphalt. I wrote to the company who responded “Yes, there will be a slight oily smell and feel to the hat. This will fade over time with exposure to sunlight and the elements of nature.” It is horrible, like wearing a tiny bit of a skunk on your head. I’ll stop noticing the smell for a while and then turn my head and think, “What the hell, why do I smell asphalt?!”

Every time I touch the hat, my hands get oily. It’s like the “oil” in “oilskin” was cheap lubricating oil.

Well, after a month… 1 week of full-time wear, 1 week sitting outside in the sun and rain, 2 weeks sitting out, it still smells of asphalt and makes my hands oily.

Don’t buy this hat.

Window-Swap.com Calm

Window-Swap.com continues to be a magical reprieve from the difficulties of the world. It’s so simple. People show videos of what it looks like out the window of their home. This morning I was welcomed into someone’s home in Brazil, heard birds chirping in Russia, felt the buzz of street traffic in Palestine, and whiled away the time listening to cicadas in Texas. The most magical thing is that in all these videos, nothing happens.
The site is free. I’ve chipped into their “buy me a coffee” jar.

Mpow Flame Solo Wireless Bluetooth Eardbuds

I got a pair of Mpow Flame Solo Wireless Eardbuds, model BH503A recently. I’m really happy with them!

Here’s the Mpow Flame Solo User Manual

I did a comparison recently between them, Tozo T12, Jabra Evolve T65, and Anker Soundcore Spirit X, and these came out on top!

Main features:
– $40 inexpensive on Amazon
– They “just work”. It has taken a little effort to figure out how to switch between my now multiple audio-out options on my computer, that isn’t the fault of the earbuds. Syncing is easy, turning on and of is easy.
– audio quality for music is nearly as good as my wired earbuds, I use them for music and Zoom sessions a lot
– The over-the-ear design means they stay on my head and I don’t have to rely on squeezing the earpiece into my ear to stay on (like the Tozo T12)
– The volume and sound response (highs vs lows etc) is sometimes a little bit less than my wired earbuds. But, as Ultron said as he prepared to destroy earth, “I got no strings on me!”

Laser Printer Toner Refill Kits That Work

I’ve now bought and used 2 laser printer toner refill kits from TonerRefillKits.com and I’m very happy with them!

It took about 20 minutes to refill my second toner, saving about $50 off a name-brand new toner cartridge. I’ll get it down to 10 minutes with practice. It takes a little bit of disassembly and work but they gave me excellent printed instructions and their website practically screams “If you have ANY questions or problems, call us, we’re here!”

Our family has 2 Brother HL-L2350DW laser printers. They’re pretty good inexpensive printers. (Though last month one just died on me, Brother support walked me through everything but… [sad trombone sounds])

I’ve had mixed experience with inexpensive, off-brand toner cartridges. I forget the details but I think about 70% of my toner purchases from V4Ink on Amazon worked flawlessly.

Borrowing History of Library Books in California

Here’s one way to keep track of the books you’ve borrowed from the library. Many libraries in California do not let you view your checkout history, citing California law that mandates the confidentiality of borrowing records. I can understand that but I wish my local library let me choose.

My library, and thousands of others use a service called Library Elf. I see a few main benefits:
* view consolidated library accounts… ie. see if your daughter’s account has overdue books
* see a history of the books you’ve checked out
* get nice email reminders of almost-due books

I’ve been using it for about 2 months and it works pretty well. It’s free for me because my library subscribes to it. It might be free for you too.

My New Favorite Musician For Kids: Jim Gill

I came across Jim Gill’s amazing finger play song One From The Left and got hooked. He’s got a huge catalog of catchy, fun kids songs. Check him out!

Wireless Earbud Headphones for Zoom Recommendation

I use Zoom on Windows a lot lately. I wanted cordless earbuds to decrease the number of wires at my desk so I went exploring. Here’s my recommendation:

All of them have “ok”-ish microphones. When at my desk, I use the mic built into my laptop but sometimes switch to the built-in mike when walking around.

MPOW Flame Solo is the best bluetooth earbud for me
– $40 on Amazon
– They “just work”. It has taken a little effort to figure out how to switch between my now multiple audio-out options on my computer, that isn’t the fault of the earbuds. Syncing is easy, turning on and of is easy.
– audio quality for music is nearly as good as my wired earbuds, I use them for music
– The over-the-ear design means they stay on my head and I don’t have to rely on squeezing the earpiece into my ear to stay on (like the Tozo T12)
– The volume and sound response (highs vs lows etc) is sometimes a little bit less than my wired earbuds. But look ma! no cords!

 

Tozo T12 is my second choice
– $40 on Amazon
– Also “just work.”
– They work as well as the MPOW Flame Solo but the in-the-ear-canal design bothers me since there is something shoved in my ear canal! And they sometimes fall out when I make a big facial expression like a wide smile.

Jabra Evolve 65T was TERRIBLE
I thought these would be the best due to the company’s reputation and their price tag but I was wrong!
– $220 on Amazon. What?? Yes!
– They occasionally make a very loud click in my ears. Once it happened when I walked away from my desk, maybe it lost bluetooth connection? Once it happened while I was trying to configure it. Earbuds should NEVER blast my ears with a loud click!
– The audio balance for music is often 90% to the left and can’t be fixed. I googled around and found several forums filled with people saying “yeah, that’s a problem. I called Jabra and they couldn’t fix it.” One fix seemed to work for some people: sticking a needle in the microphone port below the “R” on the right earbud and wiggling it around. I gently tried this (on my brand new earbuds) and it didn’t work.
– I had a bit of trouble configuring them to work. Making the sound path from Zoom/Spotify/default computer audio to the speakers wasn’t intuitive and the manual consisted of just 4 pictograms. I muddled through but a little more help from Jabra would have been nice. Here are some hints (that Jabra doesn’t mention!): The Jabra “Sound+” app for Android can help you configure the earbuds… but some forums say it is responsible for the left-balance problem. You should get the Jabra Direct Windows program to set up the Jabra USB Link 370 USB Adapter.

Anker Soundcore Spirit X no good for Zoom on Windows
– $30 on Amazon
– They work great on my Android phone
– They sound about as good as the others. The two over-the-ear earbuds are tethered to one another. I had heard people say that a tethered design would make it so you don’t lose one earbud; to that I say “Meh, just don’t lose them!” I find the tether bothers my neck. When I turn my head, it catches on my hair a little and pulls at the earbud a little. I solved that by putting the cord over the top of my head, which makes me feel rather dorky!
– HOWEVER, they are no good for connecting to a Windows computer! They disconnect randomly. Many people online have said similarly that they don’t maintain a connection. And there’s no fix.

Old school wired earbuds
I still keep them near my desk because they sounds a little better than the bluetooth earbuds and they don’t run out of battery. But the wires are a hassle.

PS. Luke, you were right all along!!

PPS. I should try Aftershokz bone conduction headphones. They have a boom mike and a good visual profile (I want to look normal-ish to my clients and not wear giant headphones)… thoughts?

The Best Food Storage Containers

My favorite food storage containers AKA “Tuppers” are the rectangular “Ikea 365+” line. Here’s why:

  • The same top is used by ALL of the different sizes (34 ounce to 142 ounce) and materials (plastic and glass). No more rummaging for the right size lid!!!
  • Having consistent dimensions, they stack well in the fridge and nest well on the storage shelf.
  • Being rectangular, they use space more efficiently than a cylindrical or bowl shaped container.
  • They are inexpensive and I can buy more of the exact same size, unlike the stupid “premium limited edition” food containers I’ve had in the past.
  • Available in light & break-resistant plastic, and oven safe & stain-proof glass, I use them daily!

Here are the exact sizes I have, all with the same beautiful lids:

  • 34 ounce plastic
  • 34 ounce glass
  • 68 ounce plastic
  • 61 ounce glass (the mate for the 68 oz. glass)

I’ve had them now for a few years and they’ve stood up well. The plastic appear to be polypropylene, as they read “P.P.”

The 142 ounce containers use the same lids but I don’t have any yet.

The only downside I’ve found so far is that the 34 ounce size is too big for what you’d consider “small” leftovers. If it doesn’t make a mess, I will sometimes put two different small leftovers in the same container. They make a sectioning system that I should try out!

(I previously wrote about food storage)

Looking for Wireless Earbuds to do Video Zoom Sessions

I need to use earphones to hear my clients on Zoom. I tried the premium “Jabra Evolve 65T” bluetooth earbuds but they didn’t work for me at all (see my review below). I’ll pay a premium price. Any suggestions?

————————————————–
My review of the Evolve 65T True Wireless Professional UC Headset, posted to Amazon 1-14-21

Several insurmountable problems led to a return

I was hoping to use these to do video Zoom chats on my Windows computer. Using them for listening to music and podcasts too. A couple issues forced me to return them:

– They occasionally make a very loud click in my ears. Once it happened when I walked away from my desk, maybe it lost bluetooth connection? Once it happened while I was trying to configure it. Earbuds should NEVER blast my ears with a loud click!

– The audio balance for music is often 90% to the left and can’t be fixed. I googled around and found several forums filled with people saying “yeah, that’s a problem. I called Jabra and they couldn’t fix it.” One fix seemed to work for some people: sticking a needle in the microphone port below the “R” on the right earbud and wiggling it around. I gently tried this (on my brand new earbuds) and it didn’t work.

– I had a bit of trouble configuring them to work. Making the sound path from Zoom/Spotify/default computer audio to the speakers wasn’t intuitive and the manual consisted of just 4 pictograms. I muddled through but a little more help from Jabra would have been nice. Here are some hints (that Jabra doesn’t mention!): The Jabra “Sound+” app for Android can help you configure the earbuds… but some forums say it is responsible for the left-balance problem. You should get the Jabra Direct Windows program to set up the Jabra USB Link 370 USB Adapter.

– I tried a few other earbuds, the MPOW Flame Solo and the TOZO T12 and both offered better features and sound quality for way less money!

I welcome comments saying which earbuds will work well for Zoom on Windows! These were premium priced, I’d be happy to spend premium money to make it work!

Toe Warmer

It’s getting cold. You’re working from home. Your toes are cold but turning up the thermostat costs the monies. You wanna treat yo self? You Wanna? This is what you want! I got this 2 years ago and… oooooooooo! It’s like having your own personal foot-elves tending to your toezies. When I went over to my wife a few seconds ago to find out the brand name, Megan said some very “Don’t you touch that!”-like words at me. :-)

Cozy Products CT Cozy Toes Carpeted Foot Warming Heater for Under Desks and More. About $50 on Amazon. Here’s Cozy Products full line of foot warmers.

If the space under your desk is chilly, use this and you’ll be able to lower your house thermostat several degrees and keep your toes happy for about 50 watts.