Archive for the ‘Products’ Category

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DoNotWant: “Over the Rainbow”.

April 15, 2009

Don’t get me wrong.  Connie Talbot is an adorable little girl with a wonderful singing voice, and I’m all for making an album of her.  But what’s with these song choices?  “You Raise Me Up”?  “Imagine”?  I honestly wonder if this little girl even understands what she’s singing about.

Srsly, Mr. Cowell.  Next time Connie does an album, choose some kid-appropriate songs.

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iApprove: Transformers.

March 25, 2009

Pfft… it’s after eleven-thirty and, thanks largely to my dad, I still haven’t made a post.  Worse, I’ve completely forgotten what it was I was going to post about.

So I’ll say a little bit about Transformers.

My introduction to the franchise started with the toys.  I was utterly fascinated by the things – small beasties or vehicles that, with a few (or several) deft maneuvers, transformed into humanoid shapes.  They were incredibly entertaining to play with.  Unfortunately, at the time I did not have any.

Years later, I happened to have gotten ahold of some money and was going through a liquidation store, where I noticed they had some Transformers in the toy aisle.  Intrigued, and remembering the enthusiasm from my childhood, I bought a few.

It got me hooked.

I’ll admit, I don’t have a huge collection; I’m not a drooling uberfanboy or anything.  But there is something so simplistically brilliant about these toys – especially the ones that transform from realistic-looking cars into robots.  And there’s something very alluring about the story behind it; stories of visitors from another world who are both very different and very familiar to a human perspective.

And… well, to be honest, I have a huge soft spot for both transformation fiction and giant robots.  Transformers is a match made in heaven.

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iApprove: Big, Fuzzy Bathrobes.

March 11, 2009

I particularly approve of mine, bit I have a general love affair with big, fuzzy bathrobes.  Firstly, they’re soft (though they become more woolly every time you wash them).  Secondly, they’re warm.  Thirdly, they’re really easy to slip into when you’ve just woken up and it’s freezing, or any other time that you’re cold.

Now, I realize there’s been some hubbub going on recently over the “Snuggie”, the Blanket With Sleeves.  Let me be the first to say: cheap bathrobe ripoff.  They’re warm?  So’s a bathrobe.  They’re easy to put on?  So’s a bathrobe.  They’re available at your local retailer?  Nope!  But a bathrobe is.  One downside to the bathrobe is that it doesn’t typically reach the floor, whereas the Snuggie does.  But that’s when you put on fuzzy slippers and tuck your legs under your lap.  Very warm, very snuggly.

And, as much as I love them, that’s basically all that you can say about bathrobes: warm, soft, comfortable, convenient.  Oh, yeah – and if you get yours in an extra-large, it makes a handy backup blanket for cold winter nights.

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iApprove: OpenOffice.

February 9, 2009

While writing NaNoWriMo last year, I ended up switching from Wordpad to OpenOffice for my noveling needs.  And while the reason I tried it in the first place was because I wanted to use the word counter, I ended up staying for some other reasons.

Firstly: This computer does not have a traditional printer.  It is hooked up to a 4×6″ Kodak printer dock.  This causes WordPad – and several other programs – to read that printer for information on what size it should make the pages.  Long story short, WordPad documents now only come in 4″ or 6″ wide, and I have to manually adjust it to 6″ every time I turn it on or I don’t have enough room to work.  OpenOffice does not insist on taking its dimensions from the printer; instead, the pages remain in standard paper size.

Secondly: It paginates. Despite its ancient origins, this is a feature that continues to elude most modern word processors.  And while it is a little bit annoying to see every page as a seperate individual (much like a PDF document), it does look very official and I love seeing how many pages of stuff I’ve racked up.

Thirdly: The spell check, autocorrect, and autofill.  Spell check and autocorrect are invaluable for catching typos as soon as they happen, rather than having them crop up later in embarassing places.  (There’ll still be proofreading to do, but at least I can skip all the times I accidentally wrote “teh”.)  Autofill checks out the letters you’re writing, then suggests a longer word that starts with those letters based on the times you’ve used the same word earlier in the document.  It’s easy to cancel out (just finish typing your word and hit the space bar), and it saves a lot of time when you have to use words like “paleological” and “professor”.

That pretty much covers the sweeping differences between OpenOffice Writer and WordPad – at least in the features I use.  It’s not a lot, but they add up in the long run and make it way cooler to operate.

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iApprove: Reusable Grocery Bags.

January 2, 2009

There are so many things to like about these, all ecological ramifications aside.  They’re both large and durable – they carry about twice as much as a plastic shopping bag, and unlike a plastic shopping bag, you can fill them to the gills without worrying about the bottom tearing out.  They’re also infinitely more comfortable than plastic shopping bags; their wide, woven-plastic straps help to distribute even heavy weight across your hand, preventing the handles from digging into your fingers as you attempt to lug four to six pop bottles across your porch.  Compared to paper bags, they’re more durable (paper bags are nicely large, but tend to tear if the contents are too heavy), more reusable (you can use them for more than starting fires), and a whole lot easier to manage (on account of the handles).

There are a couple of downsides, of course: firstly, the bags aren’t free (they run about a dollar apiece), and secondly, unless you get them from an independent source or really small store, they’re probably going to have a store logo on them.  Whether or not this bothers you is a matter of personal preference, but in case you’d rather not loudly tout your shopping affiliation, Fred Meyer’s logo is extremely discreet, and the standard-sized bags ran only 89¢ in the store where I purchased them.  They also offered extra-large bags for 99¢, in case you’re having a serious craving for paper-bag capacity.

So, to recap: they’re strong, easy to use, comfortable, inexpensive (as bags g0), and they cut down on those insanely huge collections of grocery sacks that you’ll probably never use.  And in case that’s not enough incentive, some stores also offer a discount when you use bags – usually about five cents per bag.  Twenty shopping trips (to the right stores) and they pay for themselves; after that it’s all profit.

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iApprove: Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.

January 1, 2009

So, after some days of cleaning my hair mainly with eggs and baking soda (roughly as appealing as it sounds), I’ve managed to get ahold of a bar of Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One Soap, that pungent skin-and-hair-care product that I’ve heard so much about.  Unfortunately, the store only carried peppermint and lavender, so I wound up going with the peppermint.  (Several other scents are made, including eucalyptus, almond, rose, and citrus, and the soaps are also available as a liquid – which can be used to clean everything from counters to  your teeth, srsly.)

Rather than rattling on about the ecological or economical ramifications of the soap (it’s fair trade and organic, which is pretty cool), though, I’m going to cut straight to the meat of the subject: does the soap work?

The answer is an emphatic “yes.”

That doesn’t really explain it, so I’ll go into detail.  The first thing I did was put some in my hair.  I have considerably oily hair, and I hadn’t showered for three days (owing to time constraints; not to worry, I’ve been staying clean), so I was loaded with grease.  Using shampoo in such a case, it’d take about a couple of tablespoons to get most of the oil out of my hair, and then I’d have to wash it again to get the rest of it.  Only on the second wash would it ever think of lathering.

I’d heard of the amazing cleaning power of Dr. Bronner’s soap, so I knew I wouldn’t need a lot of it.  I rubbed a thin layer onto my hands, rubbed it together a bit, and started working the soap into my hair.  But what I was not prepared for was the exact level of potency.  That little bit of soap completely de-oiled my hair – and lathered to boot.  The only thing I had to do afterward was a conditioning vinegar rinse, and bam, I was good to go.  I was so impressed with that that I went ahead and washed the rest of myself with the soap, with similar results: a tiny amount led to excellent suds and thorough cleaning.

Bottom line: If you’re interested in free-trade, organic, and/or vegan soap, Dr. Bronner’s is for you.  If you’re interested in soap that will clean your hair without damaging it, this is also for you.  If you are even mildly interested in soap, and are not allergic to any of the ingredients, this product is for you.

One thing you have to watch out for, though, is Dr. Bronner’s loopy wisdom, printed all over most of his soap wrappers.  He was a trifle insane, and his soap has always been primarily a way to spread the word of his All-One beliefs system, so there are some mighty peculiar things printed on the label.  Which in no way stops this from being a mighty fine soap.

Target stocks these lovely soaps, or you can get them directly from the source at http://www.drbronner.com/

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iApprove: Handmade Gifts for Christmas.

January 1, 2009

I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but the decorated pinecones (and the dreamcatcher I did for one cousin) were a smashing success.  The family loved their semi-personalized mini trees, without a doubt, and my mother adores her handmade Styrofoam-‘n’-feather birdie.

I don’t know why it is that handmade gifts work so much better than storebought ones (assuming, of course, that real thought is put into them).  I think that part of it is because relatives tend to appreciate the work put into making a quality piece of art.  I think another thing is that when you make stuff, you aren’t limited by the shapes and ideas that have already been actualized by other people.  You can take your materials and make basically anything, within physical reason.  There’s much more room for personalization (without embroidering each person’s name onto the front).

At any rate, after the reaction I got from my relatives this Christmas, I don’t think there’s any way I’ll be going back to store-bought presents.  Not only was this much less expensive, but it was much easier to provide objects that I knew everyone would like.