Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category.

Useful Tool:

When you need to watch a website for changes, it my go-to. You get enough free credits to watch one page daily, and watching more pages is inexpensive. I’ve been watching my daughter’s after-school program’s website for updates during the pandemic and VisualPing has been helpful.

Video Speed Controller

I’ve been using a Chrome extension called Video Speed Controller to speed up boring videos and TV shows. It works great, I’d definitely recommend it. I use it on Netflix and Youtube, often bumping the speed to 1.2x. Sometimes to 2.5x on slow lectures.

If you’re concerned about giving it permissions to view all of your content on all of your sites (I was!), you can go into your Chrome Extensions menu, and give the extension limited “site access”. I gave mine access only to sites when I click on the icon in the Chrome toolbar.

I use the hotkeys “S” and “D” to change the speed of the video dynamically. It’s weird when I slowly crank the speed up. Like the proverbial frog in a slowly boiling pot, I hardly notice the gradually building heat!

Chargie Phone Battery Saver

I got a Chargie device for my phone. I’m sorry but I can’t recommend it.

The promise is “Chargie is an app+hardware phone charge limiting solution that makes your battery last for much longer than if you had charged it regularly to 100% all night, every night.” It limits charging by unplugging the USB cord when your phone is charged enough.

Here’s the review I emailed to the developer and posted on Google Play. I’m sad that after a month, there’s been no response. 

Two Stars out of Five: I got my Chargie April 2, 2020 for my Pixel 2. This review is on Jun 3. It’s a good idea, the app is well written and the device works (with a few tiny glitches) but I’m concerned that it won’t save my battery. Now instead of staying at 100% in the overnight, my battery goes between 80 and 85% charge several times per night. If it’s the act of discharging that is bad for a battery, then Chargie won’t solve the battery-wear problem. :-( I want it to work but I uninstalled it. Maybe it would help if it automatically turned on Battery Saving mode while on the Chargie device.

Berkeley Parents Network Review: Do Not Trust: They Don’t Permit Negative Reviews

Have you ever noticed how glowing the reviews on Berkeley Parents Network are? I found out first-hand that the reviews are all so good because negative reviews are prohibited. When you choose to visit a doctor or daycare because they received 10 good reviews on BPN, you should very legitimately be worried that the provider may also have 100 bad reviews that were all rejected. By not allowing negative reviews, they hide any and all problems that an organization may have. Imagine for a moment if only allowed 3-star or better reviews.

Berkeley Parents Network is a popular website that has user submitted reviews of businesses in the East Bay with a connection to parents and kids. They also have a parent advice column. We’ve used their reviews to help guide our family.

I found out about BPN’s no-negative-reviews policy after a friend posted her personal experience with a pediatrician in Berkeley on the Berkeley Family Friends Facebook Group (link). I suggested she post her experience to Berkeley Parents Network. Her post to BPN was denied, the moderator citing their “No negative reviews” policy.

I had an email discussion with the director of Berkeley Parents Network, Ginger Ogle about the no-negative-review policy. Her argument for why they have such a policy was very circular. Essentially it’s “We accept unsolicited positive reviews but negative reviews must be in answer to a question, though there is no reliable way to ask a question on BPN.”

I’ll let you decide, here is the discussion we had:

Lee on 11-17-19:

I’ve been using Berkeley Parents Network for many years and have trusted it to find local professionals for our daughter.

A friend and neighbor told me about a very negative, long term experience she had with a doctor in Berkeley. She tried to post her review on BPN but was denied, citing your “No negative reviews” policy. This has deeply undermined my belief in the utility of your site. How can a review site exist if negative reviews are prohibited? I know that the members of BPN care deeply about the mission of the website. How can this issue be reconciled?

Ginger’s response on 12-7-19:

BPN’s policies have been developed over 25 years. They are published on our website. Please read them. I gave you and your friend a link, but it seems you have not read the policy. We do our best to apply the policies fairly for all subscribers… People who don’t agree with BPN’s policies usually choose not to subscribe.

Lee’s response on 1-13-20:

I read the policy. The negative review in question met most of the requirements of your policy though your policy explicitly makes it impossible for any negative review to meet all of the requirements. Most notably your rule about “Negative reviews are accepted only in response to a relevant question”. This rule means that while positive reviews are accepted at any time, negative reviews are only accepted in the narrow window of time when there is a relevant outstanding question in your system, which is, in all practical terms, never. Do you think her review failed any of the other tests in your Rules for Posting a Negative Review?

A rating system is not valid if it only accepts positive reviews. It sounds like you disagree with me on this.

>People who don’t agree with BPN’s policies usually choose not to subscribe.
A major problem is that only people that find out about the no-negative-review policy are people that try to post negative reviews. I’ve spoken with a few people who use BPN and none knew of this policy. All showed me deeply furrowed eyebrows of concern when they recognized the perils of such censorship.

Ginger’s response on 1-14-20:

You are misunderstanding how BPN works. Your friend posted an *unsolicited* review, which is unusual on BPN. Very few of the tens of thousands of reviews on our website were unsolicited reviews. I would guess less than 1% of all our reviews. The unsolicited reviews are all positive since we don’t accept *unsolicited* negative reviews. 99% of the tens of thousands of reviews on our site were posted in response to a question. Some of them are negative, most of them are positive.


I welcome you, dear reader to honor Ginger’s advice. “People who don’t agree with BPN’s policies usually choose not to subscribe”.

I should note that I tried to create a question about Claudine’s doctor’s office but it was rejected because, the moderator wrote, there was already enough information on the BPN site about the doctor’s office.

Claudine’s Negative Review
Here is the negative review that my friend wrote about Berkeley Pediatrics. I think you will agree that, with her factual, informative, neutral tone, this negative review, and any like it should definitely be seen by potential clients and customers. Here is what she wrote on the Berkeley Family Friends Facebook Group (link) and to BPN:

We are very disappointed with our experience at Berkeley Pediatrics over the course of 5 years specifically regarding our 6 year old. The negligence and mistakes they made were apparent immediately upon switching providers.

Our son was recently diagnosed as being completely deaf in his left ear despite passing his hearing screen (as perfect in both ears) at Berkeley Pediatrics and showing behaviors of single-sided deafness for years. I consistently expressed my concerns over his language development regarding conversations and making friends as well as his difficulties with auditory processing. All of these were passed on as being behavioral issues or needing more sleep. They basically convinced me that his hearing was perfect when in fact MRI has now shown his left ear has likely been deaf since he was a baby.

In addition to this negligence the reaction I received when informing our former pediatrician was “I don’t know what to think about that.” No one ever followed up with their concern or expressed that they would investigate what went wrong so that no other child will fall through their cracks like ours did. We called back yesterday to try to understand what went wrong and why they failed to diagnose a deaf child that had been with the same pediatrician since he was 18 months only to be met with defensiveness. Finally after almost an hour on the phone she agreed to have a meeting about this situation and review the pure tone hearing screen administrations.

Since we are no longer patients at Berkeley Pediatrics I feel like I have an obligation to alert any of you that are patients, of our experience.



Groceries and Great Prepared Food in the Bay Area

A recommendation: We have gotten a couple grocery and prepared food deliveries from Greenleaf Platters They deliver all over the Bay Area. They don’t normally deliver staples like milk but times have changed! It’s been -very- nice getting staples and some fancy foods to keep eating interesting! The staples are very reasonably priced and the fancy foods are expensive and (OMG!) worth it!

What’s Wrong With Lindt Chocolate

I finally figured out why Lindt Chocolate is weird.

He’s looking the wrong way! First, he’s not looking at what he’s working on, the chocolate truffle that is DOWN in front of him. And he’s not looking at the whisk either! He’s looking somewhere off into space to the left of it! WTF?

It’s fine chocolate but the packaging has always been a strong negative and I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why.

Door Stoppers / Pinch Guards for Your Classroom

Problem: At my school, I often want to keep my heavy, automatically-locking door open just a crack so I and the kids can get back in. Using a traditional wedge door-stop works but it often gets stepped on, kicked or misplaced. Now I use these pinch guards. When not in use, I use Velcro (AKA hook and loop fasteners) on the wall to keep them close-by. All-in, they cost less than $4 per door and they work very well!


Self Adhesive Hook and Loop Tape (Velcro)

Some tips and notes:

  • Use long pieces of Velcro on both the pinch-guard and the doorway, it makes it easier to stick them to the wall quickly.
  • For the Velcro, remember to put the “soft on the surface“. It makes it easier to feel the rough part on the pinch guard and it’s good to establish that as the norm in your room, you can stick objects onto fabric (a good stand-in for soft Velcro).
  • The glue on the velcro didn’t hold to the pinch guard perfectly so I added staples.
  • I had tried similar, popular horseshoe-shaped pinch guards but they didn’t work well on my thick door with a strong closer.
  • It’s nice that this white pinch guard is easy to see on the door from a distance. Regular doorstops can be hard to see.


Update 10-29-19: These pinch guards are standing up to normal use but not rough abuse from my students in my classrooms. A student doesn’t have to be strong to tear it apart. I’ve come across a very sturdy rubber-plastic door pinch-guard but I don’t know where to buy more! Where can I buy more of these? They were apparently provided for all the classrooms when one of my schools was renovated in ~2007. See the photo to the right. This doorstop would be too heavy to hold in place with velcro so maybe the solution above is best.

Why I love

Here’s a flying tip, I always check my airline seats on before picking them. It lets me avoid bad seats and often get better seats at no extra cost. I just booked a flight to Nashville for my cousin’s wedding and got extra legroom seats on all 4 legs! My last flight, I avoided one of those dreaded limited recline seats!

Here I am booking my flight tonight :-)

Conair Weight Watchers Bathroom Scale

We got this bathroom scale. It measures body fat, water percentage, and bone mass.

I did some research about all the different scales, in the under-$10,000 category, they are all pretty much the same, fairly inaccurate but fairly precise. That’s to say it might measure your body fat percentage incorrectly but if it goes up or down, it will track it well. This one cost $30 and works just fine.

Here’s the manual: Conair Weight Watchers scale

Super Useful App: ClickmonitorDDC

ClickmonitorDDC lets you set up keyboard macros to change the brightness and volume on your computer. I initially got this freeware it to set the brightness on my new portable monitor that had no buttons, the AOC I1659FWUX 15.6″ USB-Powered Portable Monitor. I’m very happy with having this extra monitor too!

My favorite thing about using ClickmonitorDDC is that now my work computer and home computer now have the same controls for changing brightness and volume. It’s a little thing, but it makes me happy enough to send a donation to the author!


I set my hotkeys like so:


Update 11-19-18: I told the author about this blog post and he pointed out a typo I had made on my hotkey choice above. I have since fixed the typo. Thanks Martin!

He also pointed out “…monitorname should not contain spaces or use ” “. Theoretically you do not need to write full monitorname, normally a few chars will do, for instance B156X would work too.  There is a new version 5.5 on my homepage:


UPDATE 12-2-20: The author’s site isn’t maintained any more :-(. You can get the software from various freeware sites online. Here is a local archive: ClickMonitorDDC_6_0

Update 12-8-20: To get my second monitor to work well, I used to run the Displaylink drivers but with a recent update to… something… I don’t know… they weren’t working well but the Intel drivers started working. I used the Intel Driver & Support Assistant to automagically install and update the right drivers.