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Review

Review: Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson
March 25, 2015 | 12:25 pm

zero waste home'The Zero-Waste Home' by Bea Johnson was one of my more thought-provoking March break reads. It was a little more dry than I had thought it would be---I knew this lady had a blog, so I was expecting more of a memoir-ish feel, and this was pretty much straight-up information. But there were several aspects of it which interested me so I perservered. This might seem like an odd title to review on a blog like this. What does reducing your household garbage have to do with reading books? Well, I have long thought that the digital revolution has played an...

Review: Depth in Writing Class by WMG Publishing
March 17, 2015 | 3:23 pm

wmg publishing logoWhen I was reading Discoverability by Kris Rusch, she mentioned several times that authors don't really know what genre they write in, and she suggested the genre writing class conducted by them at WMG Publishing. Good marketing. After the third time she mentioned it, I decided I needed to check out the class. When I got to the site, I discovered the Depth in Writing class and decided to take it instead. I was about to start revising a manuscript, and I suspected it needed more depth, so the timing was right. Before I signed up, I checked on KBoards to...

HP Stream 7: A mediocre tablet but a great micro-laptop
March 7, 2015 | 6:29 pm

IMG_20150305_180333372_HDRI’ve had this HP Stream 7 tablet for a couple of days, and my first impression is that it’s fairly mediocre from a tablet standpoint, but it seems like a terrific micro-laptop. With one major caveat I’m still inclined to look upon it as a great bargain at $79—especially since it included a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 (a $69 value) and a $25 Windows Store gift card. It’s like they’re paying you to take the tablet off their hands. I have come across one showstopper bug that colors my whole experience: its Wi-Fi adapter seems notably finicky....

Accessory Review: yurbuds Inspire 300 for Women
March 6, 2015 | 2:25 pm

yurbuds inspire 300A couple of months ago, I accidentally washed my last set of Apple earbuds. I was pretty sure I had one more pair in the house, but I guess my son took them back to college after Christmas--he's notorious for walking off with any earbuds that aren't tied down. I'd been dreading this day because the Apple earbuds fit my ears so well, and the sound quality, while not great, was good enough. When I started my hunt on Amazon, I discovered that most earbuds with an in-line microphone (required since my earbuds are also my phone headset) are now the...

Review: The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde
March 3, 2015 | 12:25 pm

the sketchnote handbookI wrote earlier about discovering the art form of Zentangle, and while I have been enjoying making the little designs, I had no clear idea what to do with them. Well, I have finally found the book that's made it all click for me---[easyazon-link asin="0321857895" locale="us"]The Sketchnote Handbook[/easyazon-link] by Mike Rohde. 'Sketchnote' is the name Rohde gives to visual note-taking. In the first book, he applies this to notes taken during a live or real-time lecture or presentation. A follow-up book applies technique to other uses. The benefit of visual note-taking (using illustrations, sketches, icons and doodles to enhance your written text)...

Accessory Review: Case Studio customizable iPad case
February 25, 2015 | 10:25 am

case studio customizable ipad caseI've never been a big one for customizable swag, but when the folks at Case Studio offered me a coupon code to create my own iPad case, I admit I was intrigued. There's so many options that no two cases would ever look alike. From uploading a custom photo to selecting one of many designs and adding a short message or monogram, the options are endless. I spent close to half an hour on my case. While I was tempted by uploading a gorgeous piece of Dean Winchester fan art (completely safe for work, in case you were wondering), I finally decided...

Review: Steampunk LEGO by Guy Himber
February 23, 2015 | 10:25 am

steampunk legoI got a package in the mail this week---a gorgeous hardcover book from No Starch Press! When I wrote earlier about this publisher, I mentioned that one of the things which intrigued me about them was their print-plus-eBook bundles. They graciously agreed to let me try one out, and while I was able to download the PDF copy of [easyazon-link asin="1593275285" locale="us"]Steampunk LEGO[/easyazon-link] right away, I wanted to wait to write the review until I had the paper copy for comparison. Well...it's here! And is a beautiful book. Even the Beloved, who is not particularly a book fan in either format, remarked...

App Review: Sunrise Calendar
February 20, 2015 | 2:25 pm

sunrise calendarSomeone I follow on Twitter routinely shares roundup posts of productivity apps and after I'd seen Sunrise Calendar on so many posts, I decided it was time to try it out. I'm glad I did because it has become my new go-to calendar app. It's available on Android, iOS, and there's a browser-based version for a computer. To borrow a phrase, it's everywhere you'd want it to be. I love the interface on my Android phone, with a scrolling display of upcoming events and quick weather forecast items right there on the calendar. The display on the iPhone may be similar,...

Accessory Review: Inatek iPad Sleeves
February 17, 2015 | 6:25 pm

Inatek iPad SleevesThe folks at Inatek were kind enough to send me two of their iPad sleeves to review---a matching pair for my iPad Air and my iPad Mini. The sleeves are both made of a very nice felted material and are a great choice for on-the-go protection. Their offer came at a perfect time for me because I had been using a keyboard case for my old iPad, which I liked, but I was not happy with the updated model of it which was available for the iPad Air. I had downgraded to Apple's 'smart cover' and found that while it did...

App Review: Smart AudioBook Player for Android
January 26, 2015 | 11:11 am

smart audiobook playerIt finally dawned on me late last year that Overdrive MP3 audio books are DRM-free. Yes, I'd known that fact on some level, but I still listened to the books in the Overdrive app, which is okay but not great. Plus it often takes me longer than three weeks to finish an audiobook, so I was only checking out short ones (less than 10 hours). Once I processed the implications of DRM-free audio books (Hooray! I can check out long books!), I started looking for an audiobook player app and found Smart AudioBook Player. It has great reviews and offers a...

Review: The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley
January 16, 2015 | 4:25 pm

the smartest kids in the world[easyazon-link asin="1451654421" locale="us"]The Smartest Kids in the World[/easyazon-link] is my first almost-five-star read of the year! This engaging and well-written book follows three American teenagers who, as part of Ripley's research into the best education systems in the world, go on year-long exchanges to three of the 'top' countries. The narratives of Tom in Poland, Kim in Finland and Eric in South Korea frame Ripley's thoughts on what makes a good teacher or school, the importance (or not) of standardized testing, and what really is the most vital component of a good education. I was impressed by the breadth of research Ripley...

Review: iPad Air
December 27, 2014 | 12:18 pm

ipad airIt has been the season for tech upgrading in our house! My iPad and Macbook both got replaced, and we got a second Apple TV for the main television. I don't love doing all of this. It is nice to have new things, but I always cringe at spending the money! Thanks to a well-timed sale of my previous iPad and some other tech has-beens, some holiday gift cards and a some teacher discounts, I managed to get the whole kit for under $1000, which is pretty impressive considering the sticker prices. So, here are the first of my reviews: the...