Something to mull over...

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

14 Peaks Adult Coloring Books - Simple Animal Set (Australian animals, Barn animals and Elephants)

I was shipped a set of these coloring books for free to test and provide user feedback.  

I am not a drawing artist and I actually like the simplicity of the animals that needed to be colored.  I like it when the area to be colored is not the entire page.  It cuts down the coloring time, but is very gratifying to be able finish one page within an hour.

The paper thickness is decent and glue binding is used.  The pages are not perforated and aren’t easy to tear off.  The designs are all printed in the middle of each coloring page (only one side is printed).

My daughter, who is a sketch artist, felt like the pictures were too simple.  It’s amusing to consider that comment.  I feel the opposite.  That is exactly why I like these coloring books – the illustrations are simple, and yet when color is applied to each section of the illustration, the pages come alive.

Overall, adult coloring is an interesting experience, and a decent unwinding activity to engage in while the kids are doing homework.  These coloring books are a good intro into this growing trend.

Available in Amazon as sold by 14 Peaks or in the website. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The History Major by Michael Phillip Cash - An interesting theory on a person's liminal state

This was a strange story.  I was getting worried that it was going nowhere and I was inching closer and closer to page 118, the final page.  The author was able to bring it all in for a cohesive ending though.

Initially, it feels like a horror story, and then later on, it reinforces the importance of both world and personal history, in order to make sense and provide direction for the present.  The characters were well chosen and presented.  The writing style was engaging and held my attention up to the end.  The book was cleanly edited.  It’s strong point is the concept and theory behind the story.  

This is a book that promotes introspection, and advocates learning from our elders and our past.  I know it isn’t meant to be a religious novella, but I cannot help but associate it with how the scriptures were written to document experiences of people in the past during the time of the patriarchs and the first century church in order to provide basis for modern day believers to make better decisions in the present, on top of learning from personal experience.

Personally, I believe our entire physical life here on earth should be our liminal state, and not in that intermediate state prior to eternity.

Con:  I wish the Author’s Note at the end was not included as part of the book.  While I like bonus features like this particular post script, I like them as interview material, or as a featured post in the book’s website, rather than right there, after the last page of the story itself.

I received a printed copy of this book for review purposes.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Clue Master by ThinkFun - A fun way to improve deductive reasoning skills

This is a new single player game that my kids and I recently tried out.  The object of the game is to fill out a specific arrangement of objects and colors in a tic-tac-toe (nine-square) box.  A properly arranged board will allow the dog to enter his dog house.

Depending on the player’s skill level, there are clues provided that will help the player deduce what the object and color arrangement is.  If you notice, the game’s concept has some overlap with the old-school Mastermind.

This game is fun and exciting.  We wanted to play it as a family (we have 2 pre-teens) so we took turns answering the puzzle in progressive difficulty within an agreed upon time limit.  A player that misses the correct arrangement is pulled out from the game.  This brought out everyone’s competitiveness.  

As an added benefit (from a parent’s point of view), playing this game in a casual and fun setting actually sharpens our kids logical and deductive reasoning skills.  I believe that through this game, we are actually setting our kids up to be successful when then take their next deductive reasoning exam.

I received this game gratis from ThinkFun.  In exchange, I am sharing my feedback with all of you, after playing this game several times – enough to make an informed opinion about it.

Available in Target.  Search for Clue Master Game by ThinkFun.  Or if you need the shortcut, it’s this:

Monday, August 15, 2016

ExtremePak Camouflage Water Resistant Backpack - Sold by Skivu

This backpack is useful for both outdoor or academic use.  It is made of water resistant nylon fabric.  The way the nylon straps are sewn onto the backpack allows us to attach as many carabiners as we want.  We can then attach a water bottle, a flashlight, some ropes, a towel, and other stuff to the carabiners.  This bag can fit a week’s worth of summer camping clothes and microfiber towels.  

The backing of the bag is about 0.5” thick and is very sturdy.  There are several buckles strategically placed to made the bag tighter and compact and easier to carry.  There are two large pockets in the front which can accommodate various gadgets and cords.

This bag is approximately 16” x 12.5” x 9”.  I got this backpack for my son who is in middle school.  He is able to use bag for his camping trips.  But in addition to those trips, we were hoping it could fit his school binder which is 12.5” x 12.5” and 5” thick.  That binder turned out to be too large to fit this backpack.  So now we just use this bag for his library books and textbooks.

I took a short video, I packed in several books and notebooks, 3-ring binders, and other items just to show how much can fit into this 9” deep backpack.  As a book bag, it can fit a lot.


Pros - Cool military design, medium-sized, but deep enough to pack in the essentials for a week-long trip or a day in the library, good stitching, useful sewn-in nylon strap design that allows carabiner attachments

Cons - Not wide enough to accommodate the typical grade and middle school binders, not as comfortable to wear compared to laptop backpacks which tend to have a lot more cushion on the shoulder straps

Available in Amazon.  Sold by Skivu.  Search for ExtremePak Digital Backpack

Thursday, August 11, 2016

iForaa Book Reading Lamp with 2 Adjustable Arms

My kids love this reading light. My son uses it to light up his sheet music while playing the piano (and just the living room lamps are on), while my daughter uses it while reading her library books at night.

The dual heads really make a difference as far as brightness, and since there are two levels - low and bright per light head, there are several permutations as to how you want the light to be distributed (whether it favors the left or the right, or if it needs to cover more area, etc.).

This is also the first reading light I’ve owned which includes a rechargeable battery which can be charged using the included proprietary USB cable (yes, you will need to have your own adaptor). Nice - no more quick runs to the convenience store to grab a pack of batteries.

Overall, this is a really helpful accessory. Even in the advent of backlit readers and tablets, my kids still read a lot of paper books, so reading lights never really go out of style in our household.

I got this reading light at a discount with the request that I share my usage experience.

Available in Amazon. Look for iForaa book reading lamp.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cool 30 oz Double Insulated Stainless Steel Cup by New Earth Kitchenware

This is a huge 30 oz stainless steel cup that is double-insulated. As such, it is able to retain the beverage’s temperature (whether hot or cold) throughout the day. In the office, I use it for water. I fill it up with ice to the top and pour in cold water. The water is kept cold throughout my office hours, and the NEXT day, it is still a quarter full of ice. Isn’t that incredible?

This cup is easy to hand wash due to the large rim. For ease of carrying, I purchased a separate tumbler tamer handle which is a perfect fit for this large cup. The included lid is made of hardened plastic and is vacuum sealed (with rubber lid locks). There is a straw hole in one end, and a pin prick hole in the other end. The included lid does not have a sliding seal. The advantage of this is more from a design perspective – the lid is cleaner looking – and from a practical vantage point – a clear and smooth lid is easier to clean and dry. The disadvantage of this is that it isn’t spill proof.

Note however that the base is 75 mm wide, meaning this cup sits sturdily on any surface. So really, there is little risk of spilling, unless it is caused by a carelessness. I did not notice any beading of water on the outside throughout the entire day of using it.

I was able to purchase this cool cup at a discount for review purposes. As a customer, I find it worth the suggested retail value.

Available in Amazon.  Look for New Earth Kitchenware 30 oz Cup.