walkitout: (Default)
(1) I like the Rose Gold. It is Pretty. However, my Speck case covers almost all of it. So.

(2) That is a large screen, and very, very high res. I now notice that the sunrise image I've been using from a Disney trip over a year ago is kinda blurry. I never noticed this before! Bummer. I will now need to get a new background picture. *the horror*!

(3) The tree peony on the lock screen also looks a little funky. I'm wondering if the original photos were fine, but what happened when they got snipped for the screen didn't translate well to the new phone?

(4) It is very light. It is weirdly, surprisingly, light.

I'm sure I'll have something much more substantive to say. Later.

In unrelated news, I had to reboot my Watch today. It was acting weird. Oh, I guess I should make sure my Watch is talking to the correct Phone. Hmmm.

ETA: Lock button is on the side.

ETAYA: Okay, I think I screwed up with the Watch, altho I am Really Very Okay with that. I didn't think to unpair it until after I'd already backed up the phone and restored the new phone from the backup. And when I unpaired it, I think that's when it stored all the data -- and of course that didn't get transferred over. Good news? Maybe I can get it calibrated correctly this time. We shall see.

In any event, the new phone is now paired with the Watch. Altho you'd never know it because the new phone thinks it needs to have the OS updated. Already.

I have also gone through the recycle process on the Apple store and BrightStar (which is kinda evil -- for the contact block, they require a title, and only offer Mr Mrs and Miss. SERIOUSLY IT IS 2015 YOU PATRIARCHS). They are offering me $90 if my phone is as described.

ETA still more: Activity App on the Watch appears to have some/all of today's activity. Hmmm.
walkitout: (Default)
I spent part of yesterday and today making weekend trip reservations to North Conway, and finding and printing existing travel plans to fill out my travel binder (AKA Don't Forget To Have Fun Binder). As I was doing this, and filling out a list of action items for some of those future trips, I thought to myself, Self, You should try TripIt.

So I am. Here is what I have noticed so far. Residence Inn confirmations go through great. Confirmations associated with my trip to the Netherlands -- including a Delta flight confirmation -- do not. So that's interesting. I will continue to poke around and see what I can do manually.

Expect updates.

Update 1: Took the Red Jacket Reservation when I forwarded it from my mobile, where it displays correctly, but not from my webmail, where it does not. Interesting. I also noticed that I screwed that reservation up, so I called and had them fix it. So, yay!

Update 2: Delta reservation that was screwed up when forwarded from my webmail was handled better when forwarded from mobile where it displayed correctly.

Update 3: Trying to manually convert the unfiled item associated with an RV rental. It didn't like the pickup time and drop off time (because I entered "before 11 a.m." and then I think "1 to 4 p.m.). It got rid of everything else I entered AND the form it all went into. And I can't figure out how to retrieve it. That is seriously annoying.

Update 4: It only shows a certain number of upcoming trips on the home page. It is adding more, but you have to select Show All Upcoming Trips in order to see more further in the future. That was very confusing, but okay.

Update 5: I have some pdfs with lodging information that it won't let me add as notes (well, it doesn't display them at all). Not sure what's going on with that. Otherwise, I've downloaded the mobile and the display is beautiful on that, reasonably intuitive interface. There is some cruft left over visible on the mobile from multiple adds of a particular note that I then deleted; have no idea why that happened because it is completely gone on the web view but not the mobile. The annoying form fill thing is real -- you are better off just filling out the bare minimum, saving, and then adding further detail, otherwise you just lose your work unpredictably.

On the whole, I like it. I'm starting to use the TripIt Pro account tracking feature right now, to figure out whether that's worth keeping or not. It works with JetBlue, but if you want it to keep track of Delta points, you have to forward it via email. It does Hilton, Marriott, National, so I have to say on balance it at least covers the stuff I would kind of want it to cover. Hopefully, over time, they will make it able to suck the reservations over without me having to forward the confirms. (If it does that already, never mind.)

Okay, the calendar feed feature may be the single most worthwhile aspect of this whole thing. Wow. Just, wow.

Update 6: I looked over the sample itinerary, and found the add directions feature. That's kinda cool. To make sure things are in the appropriate order, you really do want to put times in. Which is probably for the best, because that sort of forces you to notice how early you have to get up in order to get to the airport to drop off the car in time for your flight home.

Update 7: TripIt really encourages tinkering with plans, which has some nice side effects (at least if you're stuck indoors with a sick family, not feeling that great yourself, and it is cold and snowy outside. If you have something worthwhile to do, maybe not so much). I tracked down the name and address of the laundromat, in case we need it while we're at Efteling (I think we have laundry for the other half of the trip). Which reminds me, I should check the laundry situation at the Cape. I also found out when JetBlue is going to extend their schedule through the winter holidays, and discussed the drive vs. fly tradeoff for visiting my sister.
walkitout: (A Purple Straw Hat)
R. got me a Logitech keyboard for iPad ... a while back. I have not used it a lot, but it's been handy for when I wanted to write longer pieces on vacation, when I don't have my laptop with me, just the iPad. When I saw they made a teeny tiny keyboard for the mini, I picked it up, on the premise that the resulting combination might make a usable micro-laptop that fit into a medium sized handbag (still need either a large handbag or a backpack for the iPad with or without the keyboard. I typically carry a Timbuk2 Candybar).

Here's the Mini in the two-piece case, the way I normally have it. Also in the picture are the keyboard and, for reference purposes, an original iPad in a beefy case.

Comparing iOS devices

Here's the Mini with the keyboard attached (alas, both parts of the case must be removed; I was hoping the impact portion could stay, but it can't). A dollar bill is included for scale.

Mini with keyboard

As with its older and bigger sibling, the iPad mini fits into a slot on the keyboard. The connectivity is via bluetooth and I expect the power consumption to be quite minimal, judging by its predecessor (if it isn't, I would assume a flaw in the one I got, not a design flaw). The punctuation keys are very tiny, even compared to the letter keys. I understand the design tradeoff involved and endorse it, but it can be a little bit of a problem typing.

As people have observed with netbooks and similar, small, keyboarded setups such as this one, they don't straddle the legs quite as stably as a classic laptop. Alas, this thing wobbles a lot when balanced on just one leg. It works fine on a table, or a lapdesk, so as an airline option it should work great with the tray, or more generally on an armrest (altho you'd get a heck of a crick in your back after a while).

I'll update this if/when I travel with it and attempt to write anything substantial with it. I'm typing this on my laptop. ;-)

ETA: For a much higher quality review, produced in context with reviews of competing products, see:

http://allthingsd.com/20130610/with-ipad-mini-keyboards-its-literally-the-little-things/
walkitout: (A Purple Straw Hat)
Both the kids had regular (summer session) school days, R. was still on his sabbatical and we had after-school care lined up for both of them as well. Honestly, if I hadn't left the house to go do something all day, that would have constituted proof that I wasn't a homebody because I was needed there at certain intervals, but because I had agoraphobia or something similar.

Which I really do not.

Anyway. I dropped A. off, stopped briefly at the bank and then headed over to the Burlington Marriott. I had hoped to go the night before, as the kids had been jetlagged enough to be out cold around 8 p.m. (thus allowing me a shot at the 9 pm sessions and possibly the last half of the 8 p.m. sessions). Alas, T. recovered and didn't want to go to sleep until 9. I missed the Readercon book group for _American Elsewhere_, and yet I read the book, easily the worst possible combination.

Anyway. I got to the hotel well in advance of registration opening at 10 a.m., so I got a cup of coffee and then tried to connect to hotel internet, which I did not have a passcode for, and for whatever reason my iPad wasn't able to access cellular data well within the hotel. So back into the backpack with that. The phone's data was working fine (this makes no sense; they share a plan), which was helpful for note taking and googling. I got in line, a different line than pre-registration; it took about the same amount of time to get through each (I had a friend, H. in pre-reg). I didn't pre-register, because at the time I was by no means certain I'd have everything lined up to really attend even one day.

After a nice chat with H. on a bench on a side corridor, we headed off to our first panel, which turned out to be inspired by a Guardian article from a couple years back.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2011/oct/17/science-fiction-china-mieville

It was not apparent to H. or I from the panel description that that was the case, so we were at a bit of a loss as to what they were talking about. It _was_ entertaining to finally see James Morrow and John Clute were like in person, since I've been dimly aware of them (I don't read Morrow, and of course Clute is sort of unavoidable in his editor/essayist incarnation). It's so hard to predict which people are going to be radically different in person than in writing that it's always risky to predict, but they matched my imagination very, very well.

Our second panel was Gods and Goddesses, partly because H. had an online acquaintanceship with at least one of the panel members. Pretty awesome to see Patricia McKillip. I've never been a fan, but she's been in the background of my reading life, and so many of my friends have loved her work forever and ever it was a real pleasure to be in a room with her. The panel as a whole was a bit meh for me. The themes are certainly familiar ones, and I've read books that covered a lot of what they were talking about -- but my favorites weren't ever mentioned even in passing (Tamora Pierce, obvs, but also Crusie's _Dogs and Goddesses_, Michele Sagara's Elantra series, etc.), which is very okay, of course, but at several points generalizations were made that those books do such a nice job of violating that, well, meh. Nice shout out to PC Hodgell's _Godstalk_ and sequels, which J. would surely have appreciated.

I probably would have gone to the 1 p.m. Predicting the Future and been incredibly annoyed by it, but H. and I had the presence of mind to instead go down to the hotel restaurant and eat. I also had an Ommegang Hennepin, which my Dutch instructor recommended. It was indeed tasty.

At 2 p.m. we went to the Disability panel, which was really interesting. Aging and adult-onset disability (subsequent to military service) were touched upon, along with disability from birth/a young age. The interaction of disability and reproduction was not ever mentioned, a bit of a bummer, but you know, 50 minutes is pretty short when you get right down to it. Nice people, well moderated. Very enjoyable.

At 3 p.m., Characters who break the binary only barely mentioned polyamory, but did get into transitioning in spec-fic (_Cycler_? Got highly mixed commentary, as in, more negative than positive. I haven't read it). Steve Berman was really a ton of fun to listen to, and it's probably safe to say I now have a massive crush on Alaya Dawn Johnson. A lot of the discussion was devoted to how to do research and one of the panelists (possible JoSelle Vanderhooft?) talked about different perspectives based on birth cohort, and how that would likely change the kinds of stories available to publish in the future.

At 4 p.m., my last panel (because I could tell my brain would explode if I tried to stick it out much longer) was Race as a Social Construct. The best for last! And I'm so excited that Andrea Hairston will be a Guest of Honor next year! The discussion moved quickly. No one stepped on each other through interruptions or picky argumentation. They built on each other's ideas and descriptions. They used a combination of their own work and the work of others to illustrate their points. It was so polished and compact and informative, complete with specific things to do and not to do when writing -- Daniel Jose Older's advice to work out the power relationships in the world you are building, _explicitly_ think them through, rather than allow them to seep in from elsewhere, is _so_ good.

I had a great time. The venue was welcoming and functional (that is, enough bathrooms and they were kept clean, there were a couple of options for food -- cheap/quick and sit down and eat, coffee was readily available, water was _always_ available). The rooms were big enough for the people in attendance, at least on Friday. The start 5 after the hour, end 5 before the hour and don't take audience input until the last 10-15 minutes was consistently adhered to. Audio systems worked well. The people running the con were clearly trying throughout to learn from anything that wasn't working perfectly well and there were double-checks built in everywhere (like making sure the guy had the sign for the 5 minute and stop warnings and was seated where the panelists would see him).

If you used to go to cons mostly for the programming, and quit because cosplay and so forth kinda got you down, Readercon is like a Dream Come True. Well, other than the difficult decisions associated with which panel to attend in any given hour long block. I'll be there next year, for at least one day and hopefully more.
walkitout: (Default)
I don't shop for apps consistently. Every once in a while, as the kids lose interest in their current crop of apps, I go buy another batch. Sometimes an external prompt will cause me to go buy stuff. A while back, I bought Robot Labs by Toca Boca, and more recently I started it up and stuck it in front of my daughter, who is almost 4, and who may have been spending more than half her life at this point using iPads. She learned how to index her finger on an iPad. It's been that kind of life.

Anyway. Robot Labs has you create a robot (think, dress up, only with robot parts), then drag the Robot through a maze like environment with some arrows to help you out, possibly picking out up to three stars before finally hooking the robot up to a magnet at the end. Pretty visuals, calm music, weirdly appealing. The environment is way more interesting than my description of it conveys, while remaining non-threatening and not-overwhelming (unless your kid hasn't figured out about arrows yet, in which case it's a bit of a learning curve, but there you are).

I mentioned Robot Labs during my daughter's IEP meeting, along with My Playhome as apps that were of current interest. My PlayHome was actually the one I was mostly describing, because my daughter produces an incredible number of full, descriptive sentences as she narrates what she is making happen in the app. My PlayHome is a digital dollhouse (mom, dad, son, daughter, baby, living room, kitchen, kids bedroom, bathroom, backyard -- significant updates add additional rooms over time) and is ridiculously entertaining as well as the perfect iPad application: a bunch of largely unrelated animations make _sense_ in this context.

Someone at the meeting asked if there were apps for things like grocery shopping. As soon as this was mentioned of course I felt ridiculous for not having looked -- but I didn't think to look for a digital doll house, either. I found it when reading lists of good apps for kids especially kids with special needs. Off I went to find a grocery shopping app that was a game and lo and behold, Toca Boca has one of those. It is a fantastic turn taking app between a store operator and a customer.

Toca Boca also has a "house" app: you deliver mail to the house, sweep floors, clean dishes, mow the lawn, etc. It's another digital dollhouse, but stylistically and functionally different (less about play and more about the work of a house).

But the one my daughter is completely hooked on (the first I tried of the new batch and I haven't been able to convince her to switch to anything else other than the new Mickey Mouse Clubhouse interactive Road Rally app) is Toca Doctor. It's awesome: kill bugs in the patient's hair, mend a broken bone, place organs, help the patient move along items inappropriately swallowed, burp out some bubbles, place gears in the brain, clean up a scratch, administer a shot -- and on and on.

Toca Boca's apps are not like Angry Birds or Where's My Water. They aren't about puzzles or physics or new levels (well, maybe they are about updates). They're sort of like Fisher Price toys, or PlayMobil: enacting things that are more or less from real life but in a play context, under the control of the kid but hopefully with the participation of an adult. I have no idea whether this has universal appeal, or this is specifically a spectrum-y thing, but I _love_ all of them (there's a tea party, that's probably my least favorite, and a hair salon and cooking apps, which I have not yet tried).

Finally, Blinq's Miny Moe Car has several related components. There's a car repair game (bits of the car break down and need to be fixed: dirty, tire puncture, gas fill, broken window). There's a go-around-a-track thing which is a very simple game where you start the car up with a gesture like a traction toy: pull back to make it go. It runs into things and you have to start it again. Finally, the most amazing part is the driving simulator, which is a very little-kid like car, but with a radio, reverse gear, gas and brake pedals, turn signals, washers, etc.

Duck Duck Goose's Trucks also probably belongs in this category. Again, I bought it a while ago and put in front of my daughter recently to her great delight (she's a huge car wash fan at the moment). You can get vehicles dirty and then run them through a car wash. You can red-yellow-green light traffic (and set off sirens and have a monkey buy ice cream from an ice cream truck, cause fender benders, etc.). And you can have some earth movers move piles of stuff around at a construction site. It's probably the simplest and least satisfying of all of these apps -- and it is utterly charming.

I haven't put any of these in front of my son (he is almost 7, and he's a huge Angry Birds and Where's My Water guy, altho he's currently expending some energy making me play Grooh and watching); I'll update this post if he displays any interest.
walkitout: (Default)
When R. broke his arm on the Razor Scooter, I felt some pangs of guilt. After all, I bought that equipment and, furthermore, I had headed out on wet pavement with the kids and R. on scooters.

Never ride when the pavement is wet.

However, if you're going to ride when the pavement is wet, really don't ride a Razor, and you should probably walk down steep hills.

In any event, while R. can't ride the scooter for a while yet, I felt like I should come up with a safer, adult-size scooter for days when some other adult is out with one of the kids while I am out with the other kid (Thursdays, typically). My default plan was to buy another Xootr, but I'd read positive reviews of the Go-Ped Know-Ped, the main negative of which was weight (that is, the scooter itself weighs more, reducing its portability). After hearing R.'s analysis of why the brakes on the Kickboards and the Xootr continued to work when the Razor failed, I decided to buy the Go-Ped. It arrived today.

I got it in pink. I have two explanations. The not-entirely-true explanation is that T. rides a pink kickboard scooter which I originally intended for A., but he decided he wanted it so she rides the green one now. The close-to-the-truth explanation was that I was in the throes a really solid fuck-everyone mood when I pressed the Buy button on Amazon.

http://www.goped.com/products/knowped/default.asp

The deck is higher; I don't know how I'm going to feel about that. The ride seems much smoother, but I'll know more after I've put a few miles on it. The brakes are substantially better than any of the scooters I have bought so far (I'm a little frightened by just how high that number has gotten -- this is scooter number 7, if I'm counting correctly). The deck is nice and wide. I don't think the handlebar height is adjustable, the way the Xootr is; I don't think I care. The stated load limit on the Go-Ped is much higher than the stated load limit on the Xootr.

And it's very cool looking. If you really are going to carry your scooter onto other transport and schlep it around, the Xootr may be worth it for the weight savings. If you're just playing on your neighborhood streets with the kiddies, definitely buy the Go-Ped. I may, however, change my mind if those non-solid tires prove troublesome.

ETA: Here is a truly excellent review of the Xootr, and fitting it into the context of other scooters.

http://shangrilatowers.blogspot.com/2011/06/micellany-xootr-roma-kick-scooter.html

ETAYA: And still more reviews:

http://www.electric-bikes.com/scooters/kickers.html
walkitout: (Default)
Recently, we had a guest for a few days (who we already miss). During I.'s visit, our microwave suddenly quit working. I put it on the counter, where R. dismantled it. He went to the hardware store, bought a fuse, restored it to very temporary working order, and it promptly broke again the first time we attempted to use it to heat something up (as opposed to just plug it in and set the clock).

The microwave entered R.'s life around the same time I did -- the second half of 2003 or thereabouts. He was prepared to replace it, but wanted to do some research first. I have a subscription to Consumer Reports online, so we pulled the ratings (this is so much better than the old-skool approach of keeping hardcopy magazines and paperback ratings collections from CR on the shelves). There is a K-mart very, very close to where we live (under a mile), and while I don't recall ever previously having shopped there, I figured they'd probably have the top-rated model, a Kenmore. But rather than take any unnecessary risk of entering a K-mart only to discover the item in question is not in stock or whatever, I checked online, first, where I learned that (a) K-mart has a very competent online store, at least for browsing purposes and (b) it includes a check-your-local-store-for-stock feature. That feature claimed there was one in stock, so I., A. and I went to investigate. I. and I got it off the shelf, through the checkout line and into the back of the Fit with no particular excitement beyond A. checking out the seasonal displays of Easter candy. At home, R. and I got it out of the car and plugged in where it has functioned perfectly since. It's quite nice; I like it better than the old one.

The K-mart itself has what looks like a relatively new POS. It is clean and orderly. There are a few but not excessive clearance items and the shelves are well-stocked with current merchandise. The tables out front are orderly, well-stocked with seasonal items. The physical furnishings -- counters and so forth -- of the store are incredibly old (badly damaged formica, type of thing) but clean and neat. The staff we met were competent and friendly.

If you haven't been in a K-mart in some years (decades?), and you're looking for something around the house, you might give them a try. Whoever is currently running that operation appears to no longer just be vampirically sucking the chain dry. I'm particularly happy about this, because the K-mart is a mile from my house, while the nearest Target and Costco are a half hour's drive away. Even with Prime shipping, a microwave from Amazon would not have landed on my doorstep before the following Tuesday and, more likely, Wednesday (that is, today).
walkitout: (Default)
I should have done a little more research up front.

http://www.resellerratings.com/store/Collectibles_Today_The_Bradford_Exchange

I ordered a really appalling Christmas sweater from them just after T-day; I blogged about that. It has still not shown up, and a request for a tracking number. Much later, I got an e-mail saying the package has arrived (not just been sent, but _been delivered_), which did not refer to the e-mail which I sent via their web form (and to which I have not otherwise received a response). Which it has not.

So, never, ever, ever do business with The Bradford Exchange. I've sent a second e-mail via the same webform. If they can't come up with tracking information for me, my next step will involve denying the charge and contacting the Better Business Bureau.

They can't even blame FedEx for this one. They sent it USPS. At least that's the story.

ETA: I dug up an 866 number and had to sit on the line for a long time before I got to talk to someone. They don't have a tracking number. The e-mail that I received is sent automatically 3 weeks after they send the item out -- it's not based on any reality at all. Their policy is that they'll send a replacement item free of charge if it still hasn't arrived after 30 days. Needless to say, that's not a great solution, given that I ordered this sweater just after T-day for this Christmas season and the season is all but over (we do solstice, primarily, altho we also usually do some sort of extended family thing on Xmas eve/day).

They're still trying to pin this one on the postal service, which I find risible. I asked the customer service person to pass this one up the line and told her I was going to blog about it.

I did a little looking around at the BBB, and they have an amazing number of delivery complaints. By comparison, Amazon has far fewer delivery issues (and this is with way more business overall and a larger number of total complaints within the same time frame -- but a much smaller _number_, not just fraction, involving delivery issues, and with the delivery stuff resolved to the customer's satisfaction far more often).

Do Not Ever Shop from Bradford Exchange. I'm going to walk through the whole process (call at the 30 day window, which will be just after the start of the year) and see if they'll do a resend at that point, and find out if that arrives. If it _does_ arrive, I won't decline the credit card charge (and I probably won't bother complaining to BBB, because it'll just register as "resolved to the customer's satisfaction", which won't represent my lived reality). I'm of two minds as to whether to bother declining the charge otherwise: there's a lot of reason to believe the credit card companies do nothing useful in terms of disciplining companies, and it can definitely lead to problems on my end; it's not enough money to expend a lot of effort on.

However, it is an annoying enough thing for me to want to make sure everyone knows about these idiots, and knows not to do business with them. They may appear to sell one of the most comically tasteless holiday sweaters EVER, but if you can't actually _get_ it, it's just a scam anyway.
walkitout: (Default)
We got a nonstop from Boston (Logan) to Orlando on JetBlue. They run a lot of Embraer, which is a Brazilian plane. The seat configuration for JetBlue is two seats on either side of the aisle. JetBlue does seat assignments, but does not have separate classes per se. They do have some rows with upcharges for even more leg room (and they advertise themselves as more leg room in general). As a family of 4, the ability to get an entire row -- with no middle seats -- is insert-numerous-positive-adjectives-here. C., R.'s mother, came with us on this trip; we got her an aisle right behind us, which meant she was readily available to swap for one of us if we went to the bathroom and left a kid behind. She had not expressed any desire for a window seat, so I don't feel particularly guilty about this.

The biggest negative I have about JetBlue is the seatback TV. There isn't any (obvious) way to turn it off and it generates a fair amount of heat. I get motion sick looking at a screen on a flight; this is a little annoying.

One of the primary planning goals on this trip was to avoid dragging a kid seat down to Florida and back. We thought we were going to need a rental car for two reasons: getting groceries, and possible visiting with relatives in the area. C., however, decided that if she was meeting up with her brother he was going to be doing the driving. I found enough positive (and no negative) comments about GardenGrocer.com that I felt comfortable ordering groceries from them. Also, driving all the way out to the Publix sucks. In fact, I-drive in general sucks. No rental car + Cares Harness for A. = no kid seat needed.

GardenGrocer.com had a decent selection of foods, including some organics. While beer and wine are not listed on their website, you can call and they will add it to your order -- that's not an internet myth. I have no idea if they'll deliver anything harder; I didn't try. You can also get alcohol at the C-store in the Contemporary, as well as some groceries (their selection, however, is crummy and their prices are high, which makes sense given their location). I ordered the wrong cheese for C. and called to change it the night before delivery day and there was no charge to swap the cheeses, even tho the order had already been picked.

Delivery was to bell services at the Contemporary. When we checked in, we walked just to the right and gave them our room number; our groceries arrived shortly before our luggage arrived from Magical Express.

Disney Magical Express is a motorcoach service from MCO to resort hotels. There's a bathroom in the back; two seats on either side of the aisle. TVs scattered throughout supply some advertising for your upcoming (or, hopefully, future repeat) Disney vacation, depicting Disney characters riding the bus, on a Disney Cruise, checking into or out of hotels, eating at restaurants, blah blah bleeping blah. Not too obnoxious.

DME sends you luggage tags so you can check your bags through to your resort hotel. This is a Really Really Really Nice Feature. We had no trouble with it; bags arrive a little over an hour after we did. It does introduce an additional opportunity to lose bags; I have no idea what the overall risk is.

We had a flight delay on the way out, because our plane was late arriving at Logan. Also, the trip south was slower and longer than the trip north, which we believe to be because of prevailing winds.

Overall, JetBlue was a good experience. We've flown two visitors nonstop Seattle-Boston over the last few months; there were no significant issues altho some delays. We'll continue to use JetBlue. Disney Magical Express was a good experience, as was GardenGrocer.com. We will use these all again, and recommend them to others.
walkitout: (Default)
I hesitate to do this, because the next thing that happens is one of them stops working for obvious or not-so-obvious reasons.

However, I have to rate the iPad High for small child durability. The screen cleans up well, even after being lollipopped (defined as a small child working on a lollipop then using the screen and getting it really, really sticky). The iPad survives drops from small child height remarkably well. I'm horrified each and every time, but the device seems magnificently indifferent. Finally, they tolerate being walked on by a small child weighing a little under 30 pounds. I really try to stop this from happening (and the larger child hasn't done it). But it _has_ happened, again, with no obvious negative consequences.

I wouldn't recommend doing any of these things to your iPad. I hope your parenting skills are such that small children in your vicinity would never even get close to doing these things to your iPad. Nevertheless, I'm very pleased that the iPads have survived my very slacker parenting style.
walkitout: (Default)
Dizzy Disc Jr.

This is a "sensory toy" or therapy tool for a "sensory diet". Basically, if you've got a kid who loves spinning, or looking at spinning things, this is a way to meet that need in a more formal, organized and/or satisfying way. It wasn't cheap. It was available through Amazon, but not with Prime shipping -- 3rd party seller. If you're thinking sit 'n' spin, kinda. But a sit 'n' spin is unbelievably cheap and crappy compared to this thing. I'm fairly certain I'm over the weight limit, but it had no problem with me sitting on it with A. in my lap, spinnning. No lame pillar, either, which could be considered a good thing or a bad thing.

T. immediately took to it: stood on it, sat next to it and watched it spin, including putting his eyes right next to the logo in the center. A. _loved_ it -- I had to enforce some turn taking. I completely broke the rules and put her on it and spun her around; I had to fold her legs in to keep them from stopping her. She unfolded them when she needed a break.

Tangle Therapy

http://www.amazon.com/Tangle-300-Therapy-by/dp/B000F8I5AE

I bought a smooth, simpler version of this after I saw the one K. had. This is a little bigger, more complicated, has a slightly tacky surface and nubs on it. The old one I had was pretty addictive; this is almost impossible to put down. The kids all like it, too, altho getting put in the sand box did not do it any favors.

Puffer Ball with light inside

R. calls these aneurysm balls. They look a little like an anenome, are a little rubbery with a slightly tacky surface. If you squeeze on them, they puff out. The LED light inside is motion/impact activated. I found these a little disturbing when the OT brought some over, but I got over it on the second encounter. They're kinda fun; the kids do like it.

FirstWords Deluxe by Learning Touch for iPad (but you can get it for lots of iPhone/iTouch)

I got several samples of apps, looking for things to entertain the kiddies other than with videos on the iPad. Most of them were things where you point at an icon or picture of an animal and it makes the animal sound. They were only very mildly interesting to A. I also got a sampler for this. It shows a cartoonish icon (of a shape, an animal, a vehicle, something from around the house, etc.). If you touch the icon, it says the word. The word is displayed in scrabble like grayed out tiles on the top half, and the bottom half is littered with full-color scrabble like tiles for the same word. If the tiles are dragged over the matching tile, they click in; when they are all in place, the icon spins around, becomes large, and the word is spelled out letter by letter and the word is pronounced. For reasons best known to A., this is really involving. She wants to play it several times a day, for many minutes at a time. She has learned to isolate her index finger ("point") from this, when nothing else had motivated her to do so previously. That's kinda cool. T. has started to be interested in it. He'll repeat the letters when the game pronounces them, and tonight he started playing it as well. The touch screen is pretty easy to use, but it does have a learning curve which becomes highly visible when a kid with fine motor skills is learning it.

Letter recognition learned in this game appears to generalize to other toys, such as v-tech laptop toys and similar.

Melissa & Doug Farm Sound Blocks

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00009WBWK

I would swear we had a different version of sound blocks at some point, but they are long gone, if, indeed, I am not hallucinating.

In any event, there are two (2) blocks, and a little tray. The tray takes 2 AAA batteries. When the blocks are placed to form a complete animal in the tray, a circuit is completed which produces the animal's sound (moo, etc.). It's kinda cute. The kids aren't all that interested in putting it together, but A. does like poking it to make it restart the noise when it winds down.

Toysmith PinArt

Back in the 90s, this was a computer geekboy workstation toy (along with koosh balls and similar). It is disturbingly fun to play with: to put your hand on it, to put a variety of things on it, whatever. Lots of fun. Kind of heavy if it gets dropped, so probably supervised play only.

Plan Toys Dollhouses, Doll families and assorted furniture set accessories

My First Dollhouse, Basement for My First Dollhouse, Chalet Dollhouse: we got the first two for here and the third for the nanny. Each setup got an adult bedroom, kids bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom. Our setup also got a laundry room and extra accessories, including kids toys indoors and out. We're thinking about buying a dog and accessories for the nanny, but haven't yet.

We love these. They company pushes the eco thing. The toys are very gender-neutral and supportive of pretend play, whether child-directed or adult-directed or some combination thereof. I looked at a bunch of doll houses online and in person: there are several choices out there suitable for a family looking to avoid pinks and other extremely girl-identified pastels; I really like Plan Toys. They definitely generate chokable parts if you drop them and the glue fails, so for A., they are supervised play only.

Paw Naturaw Bully Sticks

A little change of pace here: these are bull pizzle (that would be bull penis) that have been processed, mostly by drying out. This particular brand claims to be all natural and not result in bad breath or otherwise stinky dog. The neighbor's dog (large, kinda hyper, but very sweet) likes to chew on branches and so forth and then vomit. Rawhides are gross, and every other chew thing gets destroyed very quickly. I got some of these, thinking maybe they'd be a substitute for branches. They work great. The dog loves them. The dog doesn't chew on branches any more. The dog doesn't throw up any more. The dog's teeth are looking cleaner (not at the gum line, unfortunately). These things do everything they claim to do, and the dog's breath is not bad (never was bad; these haven't made it any worse).

Don't buy them thinking you can break them in half to stretch them. They are seriously tough. You would need a hacksaw. I've thought about it, but not actually tried it. Stunningly, the dog can get through one in less than 20 minutes. Your dog may make one last longer.

Plato Dog Treats, specifically the organic salmon

These have been fed to two different dogs: the large, kinda hyper one next door, and the lhasa apso that lives across the street with my walking partner. The dogs like them. They (the treats) smell good -- very salmon-y. No negative repercussions that I have noticed. The treats are a little expensive.
walkitout: (Default)
This time, it is a very mild head cold/respiratory thing, not a stomach bug, so I guess that's something.

In unrelated news, I took T. to the Apple Store at Pheasant Lane and bought him the bottom end iPad and a very, very padded case for it. He also rode the little train and the little bus coin-op ride, and we got Munchkins. Needless to say, he had a great time. The iPad was intended to be a Christmas thing, however I was sick and tired of the kids fighting over who got to play with _my_ iPad. The new iPad is officially T.'s, mostly for watching videos (mostly Mickey Mouse Clubhouse). The old iPad is still mine, however A. has a couple apps on it that she loves, so whenever she starts climbing up on the hutch to get the little computer, I get it out and start it up for her. It's motivating her to improve her ability to point, so I guess that's something.

The second dollhouse (for B.'s house) arrived today. I did not unpack it, since it's going over there anyway. I am mildly curious what it looks like in person, but it's another Plan Toys thing so I have a good idea.

Yesterday I went to the consignment shop in West Acton and bought A. some doll furniture for the baby dolls: a bed, a wardrobe, a chair and a high chair. Very cute. Very not the kind of toy I ever thought I would be buying. To make up for it, I ordered an appalling amount of "sensory" toys. We'll see how that turns out. I also picked up an umbrella stroller for B. to have for A.'s use when they go to the mall.

We're loving the new Bob. We had a Sport Utility Stroller, which we passed along to B. since A. is finally outgrowing the Britax stroller we'd had from birth (the one that fit the car seat and the other seat for it could face either direction). I bought a pink-and-brown Revolution, so it has the swivel wheel that you can lock. Very nice, but the directions for the weather shield do not match the weather shield, which is a little confusing. We also bought a second Needak, for B.'s house. We haven't quite decided whether we're giving her the new one or the old one. On the one hand, the new one folds in half, which is very cool in terms of sticking it in the van and taking it with us on overnight trips. On the other hand, we're not sure how T. will react if we swap the rebounder. I'm in no hurry to find out, either.
walkitout: (Default)
When I went into Best Buy today, after e-cycling a couple things, I asked the helpful greeter person what the coolest gadget was. He pointed me at the iPad, which I already owned. Second choice was a 3D TV, which it turned out they had no functioning glasses for, so just a blurry TV. *shrug* I had not realized Best Buy bought Magnolia and turned it into a mini in store thing; that was weird. I felt like, once again, my home town was stalking me. It's not enough, apparently, that there are Starbucks everywhere.

In any event, I bought a Blu-Ray player and HDMI cable, and went home, where I sensibly left the box for my husband to deal with. It required a substantial firmware upgrade, probably to deal with potential encryption changes or something like that. Whatever, it wasn't my headache.

In the meantime, I decided to attempt to get some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse local to the iPad for my son to perseverate on while we are out of town. There's always YouTube for the theme song and the hot dog song, but I was worried that I'd chomp through a lot of bits on the 3G if the hotel's wireless didn't actually work out for us. Netflix, unfortunately, did not have Clubhouse episodes for streaming (which would not necessarily solve my problem anyway, altho it would give T. something to watch other than the theme song over and over and over again); iTunes did, however, have them for download. (Hunh. Does Amazon? Can I watch those on the iPad? Hmmm....) So I bought some Jack's Big Music Show, some Micky Mouse Clubhouse and one Blue's Clues episode. Which are taking for freaking ever to download, but I don't really care. Attempts to answer the question, can I play these on my MacBook, however, are murky. They are available over there for download, but it says if I download them on the MacBook, I can't download them elsewhere, but I can sync them. I don't really want them on the MacBook, so I'm not messing with it. The model for multiple devices is really different from Netflix and Amazon -- more of a hub and spoke, than a we know you paid for it so connect from anywhere and we'll play it for you model. I have to say, I really prefer the connect-from-anywhere model.

While I was waiting for the download, however, I decided to check out the maps software on the iPad. Wow. That is freakishly beautiful. It took me a minute to find the written directions, and along the way I stumbled across the compass feature. The gosh-wow factor on this device is intense. I commented that I'll never buy another navigator again. R. said, well, phone based stuff isn't great at knowing where you are, which puzzled me, because I was pretty sure this thing had a GPS in it. Which it does, since I have the 3G version.

I don't know what anyone else is using this expensive gadget for, but as a travel toy/tool, it is looking really bright, shiny and happy-making.
walkitout: (Default)
I'm really glad I did, because while they are relatively commodity items, the ones that came with it are white and the commodity ones are usually black. White works a little better with the green face and the maple box. And it sounds every bit as good as I remember.

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