product reviews

Why I'm a top Pocket user

Submitted by Ben on Mon, 12/16/2013 - 14:29

I got an email a few days ago informing me that I'm in the top 5% of users of a service called Pocket -- I've used their free service to read more words on more Web pages than 95% of their users.  This is a totally unpaid and unasked-for endorsement, but chances are you haven't even heard of this service, so let me introduce you to why I use it so much:

The case for "smart" surge protectors

Submitted by Ben on Wed, 01/13/2010 - 18:47

I've been seeing magazine and newsletter articles for some time promoting the new "smart" surge protector that shut off power to peripheral devices when a "master" device is turned off, but I figured we didn't need one because we usually turn off our power strips manually.  In practice, though, we often weren't turning off the one in the living room, because we'd turn off the TV with the remote and then walk away, go to bed, etc.  So I decided to pick up a Philips model for $20 at Wal-Mart and see what the Kill A Watt

Why we keep making movies like Avatar

Submitted by Ben on Sun, 01/03/2010 - 12:36

This is a response to a blog post called "When will White People Stop Making Movies like Avatar?" by Annalee Newitz.  The post made me upset when I first read it, but I hadn't seen Avatar yet, and besides, her argument is protected by the good old rhetorical ploy, "If this makes you feel defensive, you must be a racist."  Now that I've seen the film, I disagree more strongly on a number of points and w

Drinkwell Platinum pet fountain - finally, no more scooting the water dish!

Submitted by Ben on Tue, 07/14/2009 - 10:39

Drinkwell PlatinumSimon has always scooted the water dish.  Ever since he was a kitten, he's spilled water on the floor by scooting the dish around with his paw.  I tried heavier dishes (but then you have to lift them to the sink), I tried putting obstacles in the way (but he can lift the bowl out), I tried putting heavy objects on top (but then you have to move them to get the dish out), I tried putting the dish inside a larger tray (but then it gets scummy and has to b

household uses for bike chain wax

Submitted by Ben on Tue, 07/07/2009 - 09:27

Soon after I bought my first recumbent bike, I became a devotee of chain wax instead of oil.  When I was a kid, we always used 3-in-1 oil on our chains, but it only took one application of that stuff to the long dangly chain of a Bike-E to make me realize my error -- oil got all over my leg!  I had to remove all the oil with a rag and replace it with wax.  I was so sold on wax that once when I took my bike to a small-town shop for unrelated work and the we

Static Eliminator - reusable dryer sheets

Submitted by Ben on Mon, 04/20/2009 - 11:36

Static EliminatorI like to dry laundry outside whenever possible, but Jessie's not into scratchy towels, nor ragweed, and the weather doesn't always cooperate, so we wind up using the dryer about half the time.  Our high-efficiency dryer is fantastic, but it can whip up a lot of static.  My anti-static gun was not helpful -- you'd need at least one extra arm (or a very attentive assi