Review Week—One Consumer Product Review a Day

Everyone is saying my consumer products reviews are brilliant, but infrequent, and you dear readers, deserve better. Thus, beginning in an hour, I’m going to review one consumer product a day for seven days. Plan your week accordingly.

This overview is intended to make Review Week even more life-changing than it otherwise would be. Before we get going, scrape together $1,042.64, the cost of all seven products combined. The cool-factor (and prices probably) of these products is about to sky-rocket and you don’t want to be left on the outside looking in.

Most product reviewers write in a way that suggests our quality of life hinges on their uber-detailed, super serious deconstruction of the product at hand. I will take a different tack. Since we are not our consumer purchases, my aim is to lighten up the genre with ample doses of sarcasm. So the not-so-hidden-agenda is to poke fun at the mindless materialism perpetuated by reviewers.

According to economists, we often buy consumer goods to “signal” things about ourselves to others, look I’m well-to-do, look I’m on top of the trends, look I’m smart, look I’m an environmentalist, etc.

The following reviews are informed by my fondness for the ancient Stoics who believed status, wealth, and hedonism are impediments to tranquility or “inner joy”. But even Stoic sympathizers like myself have to buy things on occasion.

The reviews are also informed by books like True Wealth by Juliet Shor. Shor argues we should be more materialistic, by which she means more thorough and thoughtful in our purchasing of products, so as not to waste money and contribute even more to our ever expanding landfills. Shor, and other progressive social scientists, argue that we should signal, if anything, environmentally conscious, pro-social values through our consumer purchases.

As one of the 7.6 billion people on the planet, my goal is to find products that “just work”, offer good value, and last a long time. I concede, that may come across as boring, but I’m also susceptible to beautiful materials and design, as my current love interest, the new Audi A7, illustrates. In the interest of keeping the week’s price total down, I decided not to purchase and review that. Yet.

See you shortly.


Dear Apple

As you race to catch up to (and hopefully pass) Amazon’s and Google’s smart speakers, I have a suggestion. Find out if I’m an anomaly. Specifically, my craving for silence. If others feel similarly, you may want to tweak HomePod’s design as you continue to refine it before December’s release.

As a card carrying introvert, I have limits on how much I can interact with people, or people-like personal tech, each and every day. At a certain point, I need silence to recharge. That’s why I silenced Waze, my fav app, after a few days of use. Why would anyone choose to fill their car with an automated voice when they can easily read the turn directions in blessed silence? Similarly, my phone only “rings” when three people call me. Voicemail is one of humankind’s greatest inventions.

I was conscious of my quirky commitment to silence a few years ago, when outside of Portland, a friend of mine spoke an address into his phone before we headed out. That struck me as really odd, why not just type in the address I remember thinking. I want to save my finite number of words for people, not my iPhone or my future HomePod. And I don’t want my pocket computer or HomePod to ask anything of me or to speak to me. Just show me where to turn and stream Marvin Gaye.

So since HomePod isn’t shipping until December, use the intervening time to figure out whether “quirky” is the apt adjective for my condition or whether there is in fact an underreported “silence is golden” contingent that embraces technology, but seeks work-arounds to the growing expectation that we have to talk to our tech.

Batting for Average versus Power

John Gruber on the Apple Watch and iPhone.

“The nut of every “Apple Watch is a dud” story is the fact that its clearly not an iPhone-size business. But that can’t be the only measure of success. The iPhone is the biggest and most successful consumer product in the history of the world. Nothing compares to the smartphone market, and it’s possible nothing else will in our lifetimes. You and I may never again see a product as profitable as the iPhone — not just from Apple, but from any company in any industry. Or maybe we will. It’s a complete unknown.

But if Apple gets it into its head that they should only work on iPhone-sized opportunities, it would paralyze the company. In baseball terms, it’s fine for Apple to hit a bunch of singles while waiting for their next home run. According to Apple, they had more watch sales by revenue in 2015 than any company other than Rolex, and Apple’s “Other” category, which is where Watch sales are accounted for, had a record-breaking holiday quarter three months ago, suggesting strongly that Watch sales were up over the year-ago holiday quarter.

These two facts are both true: Apple Watch sales are a rounding error compared to the iPhone, and Apple Watch is a smash hit compared to traditional watches and other wearable devices.”

Yet Another Case Study of Mindless Personal Technology Hype

Brought you by Geoffrey A. Fowler of the rapidly deteriorating  Wall Street Journal.

Is this dude on the AAPL payroll? He writes:

Bluetooth earphones are a thing now, so you might as well buy the best.

That short, vapid sentence speaks volumes about “journalism” in the era of consumerism. For the sake of fitting in, I certainly hope you join the Wireless Headphone Club this Christmas season. Nothing worse than being on the outside looking in. Cue the advert with baby Jesus in the crib with AirPods dangling from his tiny ears.

GAF continues:

Totally untethered headphones are a delight to use, especially when you’re on the move. No more untangling the spaghetti at the bottom of your bag. No more slap slap slap on your neck when you jog. No more being tethered to your phone like a marionette.

Maybe I just haven’t realized it. How long have my tangled wired headphones been keeping me from being my best version of myself? I won’t be joining the Wireless Headphone Club yet because I’m perfectly content running with an iPod Nano.* Hey GAF, News Alert: When running, I completely forget about my Nano and headphones. Someone at the Journal slap GAF for his “slap, slap, slap” hyperbole.


* I’m waiting until your AirPods purchases drive my AAPL stock up $159. :)

Techies, Solve This Scourge Already

Last night at Vic’s Pizzeria, while I waited for The Good Wife to bus her dishes, I read a flyer announcing some kind of Trail Celebration. I was intrigued but wasn’t sure if it was a trail run or something else altogether. When I saw the event took place on November 12th, four days earlier, I gave up trying to make sense of it.

Granted, compared to electing a celebrity buffoon President, dated flyers may not inspire much outrage, but this is an underappreciated scourge. I probably feel this way because college campuses are littered with announcements about foreign films, guest lectures, job fairs, and celebrity buffoon President protests that took place yesterday, last week, or three months ago. And litter is the operative word, especially for my minimalist friends and me. You can’t look anywhere without being bombarded by yesterday’s news.

Which begs the question, in this digital age, why are we still felling trees to announce trail celebrations and foreign films? Why haven’t the techies created affordable digital bulletin boards with EXPIRATION DATES attached to each announcement. So the foreign film announcement disappears at the exact time and day at which it’s shown. Is that asking too much?

How To Find a Boyfriend

In case you’re looking for one. In one word, PowerPoint*. So says Jessica Guzik.

And if you’re looking for one, and are not a serious gamer, you should probably limit your search to college grads. Economist Erik Hurst via economist Tyler Cowen on what young men are doing.

In related news, I’m slowly working my way through The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing The Patterns Of Intimate Relationships. I think HLerner knew if she pitched it as a “Woman’s Guide” I couldn’t help myself. Savvy. A pgraph to ponder from the early going:

Making a long-term relationship work is a difficult business because it requires the capacity to strike a balance between individualism (the “I”) and togetherness (the “we”). The tugs in both directions are very strong. On the one hand, we want to be separate, independent individuals—self-contained persons in our own right: on the other, we seek a sense of connectedness and intimacy with another person, as well as a sense of belongingness to a family or group. When a couple gets out of balance in either direction, there is a problem.

The Good Wife and I successfully balance that seesaw about a third of the time. Which if we played professional baseball, would make us All Stars.

*nice to know PowerPoint isn’t a complete catastrophe