2016 Product Review

by L

What were the best products that you discovered in 2016? What were the worst?

I am really enjoying our Amazon fire stick for TV, although I do miss the Red Sox!

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171 thoughts on “2016 Product Review

  1. So how do Alexa fans like to use theirs?

    I finally started using mine, which has replaced my kitchen radio. I also use it for my Amazon music. It does the job nicely. However, it doesn’t always understand me and I’ve had to change playlist names to make them more Alexa-friendly. (Notte Magica was changed to Magic Night.) Also, sometimes I like to check on the title of the song I’m listening to or what’s next, and I haven’t figured out if there’s a way to do that. And if I hesitate a few seconds when asking for my music, Alexa suggests a station or playlist that is of no interest to me.

    I’m thinking of trying it out for shopping lists.

  2. I’ve heard there are youtube videos on how to rig your firestick to let you watch whatever you want, including sports.

  3. We have Alexa and I’m certain we’re not really using it to it’s full potential (the kids mostly ask it to tell them jokes or sing to them and I find it creepy). One of my kids’ favorite Christmas presents were Buddha boards and I’ve had several friends order them from Amazon after seeing them at our house (the attraction is no mess while still doing art). Dh bought a bunch of Sonos speakers after we did our renovation including this sound bar thing for the tv which he seems to like. We also bought a whole house Pelican water filter and the water tastes great right out of the tap and hair/skin seem softer.

  4. I have had Alexa since she was a beta model and I love her . Using Alexa I turn lights on and off , dim lights , listen to music , radio , shop , turn TV on and off , open garage door , change thermostats settings , and listen to audible books . I have high hopes for the smarter home arriving in the near future . I wish Alexa would fetch my children hither and yon for me but I think I read someplace that one can use it to summon an Uber so life is slowly becoming more automated .

  5. I like my push-button locks on the garage and back entry — so much easier than maneuvering keys when my arms are full.

    Cooksmarts was also helpful for those weeks when I am short on ideas and/or the menu looks good.

    Other than that, I can’t really think of “new” products — I mean, I like that I was able to find red boots again after about a 5-year dearth, but I don’t think that’s really what this is going for. :-) DH bought a new TV and sound bar and whatever, and it’s pretty, and I like the fact that our old TV is now in our bedroom to replace the one we got when we first married because the volume works, but, you know, it’s a TV, it has pretty pictures and sounds.

    I will like the widespread adoption of accident avoidance features in lower-end cars in about 6 months. . . .

  6. While we’re on the topic, I’ve seen “squatty potty” displays everywhere. Haven’t tried one.

    For Alexa to do all those things Crazy listed, I guess I would need to connect and link lights and appliances. If I try shouting to Alexa to turn on my TV right now I’m sure she’ll have a snappy response. :)

  7. We got a new furnace, air conditioner, humidifier, thermostat a few months back. The thermostat is wifi compatible so I have the app on my phone from which I can control the temp remotely. Worked nicely coming home from our Christmas trip…I had held the temp at 62 while away; about 20 mins away from home I set it back to “run” so we could feel the fresh warmth when we got home.

  8. Sort of on topic. Has anyone else noticed that Turbotax is catastrophically buggy this year? Any thoughts on other options to try?

  9. Fred – Poo Pourri, imo, is no substitute for 15 minutes of the exhaust fan. It’s just a nice mitigator in the meantime.

  10. I have been disappointed in Alexa. She doesn’t have the conversation skills that Siri or even Google has. When I ask for the weather she’ll only give the air temp, not the “feels like” or windchill (there is a difference between feeling like 10 degrees and feeling like -10). She often tells us that she doesn’t understand. However, my kids do like the Magic Door feature on her.

  11. I bought one of those Instant Pot pressure cookers that have the cultlike following. So far, I am not getting the hype. By the time it comes to pressure, cooks, and then releases, it would be faster to cook stovetop. And nothing tastes as good.

  12. CoC, I get an ad for Squatty Potty on FB all the time, and it’s autoplay. A friend has apparently “liked” it, which I think ups the frequency.
    I’d like to try out the iphones “home” app, but not here.
    Guess I really don’t have much in the way of new products.

  13. Revitalash family of hair stimulating products. My brows no longer have bare spots and since I can’t wear any eye make up, my lashes are no longer invisible to the naked eye. 2017 search is something to thicken up the head hair.

  14. Lemon,

    Interesting. We have both Alexa and Google Home. The microphone on Alexa is much better and the round lights on the top mean that if you talk to it from the kitchen you can see that it heard you. With google home, if it isn’t pointed at where you happen to be, you can’t see if it heard you. Also, Google makes you use too many works. If you say “living room off” to Google it doesn’t know what you’re saying. You have to say “Hey Google, can you turn off the living room lights.” Why does it need to be so wordy?

    I think Google has more long term potential but at this point Google Home is far from fully baked.

    Does anyone have a car with Apple or Android Car Play?

  15. I’m really liking the feature that Comcast added to X1 where you can access Netflix directly through cable rather than switching input/sources to a Firestick or something else. And you can just speak “Netflix” into the X1 remote and it pulls it up, but this yet proves elusive to my 4 yo, whose elocution remains just a tad bit too babyish for the system’s voice recognition.

  16. “Why does it need to be so wordy?” Branding. Every time you say Google. Good or bad, I don’t know that.

  17. Is it possible to change Alexa’s voice? I asked her to talk like she is British and got the typical “I do not understand”.

    I’ve been happy with Playstation Vue and the Fire Stick – in combo we get all the sports we need along with all the other usual shows. I’ve been enjoying Evolution of Evil and Raiders of the Lost Art.

  18. Costofcollege – My nephew raved about squatty potty at T-giving – not exactly holiday talk.

    We also installed a new HVAC system last summer and I love it. It is quiet and also can be programmed by phone. I didn’t realize how antiquated our old system was, after all it was only 39 years old.

  19. ““Hey Google, can you turn off the living room lights.” ”

    They need a nautical version. It’s your product, you own it. You don’t ask it to do something, you tell it:

    “Google, secure the living room lights”

  20. Meme, I’m encouraged to take the plunge on Revitalash eyelash product. Thank you! Please let us know your experience with head hair growth products.

    We did install Nest smoke detectors and have been very happy. If I get around to it, I may get their thermostat.

    I don’t understand much about using TV features, but I only recently discovered that I can see Netflix (The Crown) directly on our bedroom TV without using another thingamajig. (I have no idea what a fire stick does.)

  21. Off Topic – this morning DD told me that some kids on the bus have been calling her names, pulling her headbands off, shoving their gloves/hats/bags into her face. Apparently it has been going on for several weeks. Their bus driver, who ran a tight ship, just retired in December and a new driver took over. Should I say something to the bus driver or go straight to the school Principal?

  22. Should I say something to the bus driver or go straight to the school Principal?

    Lemon, do they have camera’s on the bus? If yes, meet with the principal and ask to view them. If the principal is recalcitrant, use the magic word “bullying”.

  23. “Should I say something to the bus driver or go straight to the school Principal?”

    I don’t know, but that’s horrible. The hard part about saying something to the bus driver is when/where/how? Are you trying to do it at the bus stop, possibly when the other kids can overhear? At least with the principal, it can be private.

  24. I got an Anova sous vide stick around Christmas. So far, I have only used it three times, but I was really impressed with the results. The best so far was the scallops which were perfectly cooked. That is really hard to do in a skillet/on the grill. The lamb recipe RMS recommended was also really good.

    Like I said in the other thread – my perennial search is for t-shirts that are comfortable, fitted but not clingy (so need to have a womanly shape but not be skin tight), nice enough to layer, not see-through, and don’t get holes around the waist almost immediately. This is an impossible dream.

  25. @ Ivy – try J. McLaughlin t-shirts. Expensive but worth every penny. I have a white one I’ve worn at least once/week for 3 years and still looks brand new. Seriously.

  26. Yes. Totally and completely outrageous. But it is the perfect t-shirt.*

    *At least the one I bought in the store is, and I assume it has not changed.

    And, I’ve had mine 3 years. That’s $41/year. Would you pay $41 for a perfect shirt?

  27. Speaking of spending money – how much would you spend on a pillow? It looks like a really good one is $250 – $350 but considering how much use you get out of it the cost per hour is pretty low.

  28. “I’m really liking the feature that Comcast added to X1 where you can access Netflix directly through cable rather than switching input/sources to a Firestick or something else.”

    As to the reverse of today’s topic, I really really hate when people redesign user interfaces Just Because. E.g., our new FiOS interface is now just like Netfix. I *hate* the Netflix interface, with a passion, because I feel like I can never find what I am looking for. I want a list of the damn programs that I can read, in alphabetical order, where all I need to do is scroll up, down, right, left, etc., not a screen full of pictures of the different shows, most of which I don’t immediately recognize, all of which have different writing in different places, and some of which are completely illegible from my couch. And the new TV does a little wavery dot pointer thing, with just enough of a time delay between when you move the remote and when the dot moves that I am always, always, clicking on the wrong thing. AARRGGHHHHHHHH.

    Or Edmunds — since I last looked at car stuff sometime last year, they have completely redesigned their website. They have now hidden the “search by feature” in the eensy-weensy teeny-tiny print at the bottom of the page — you can search by make, model, or general price range, but I wanted two price ranges and crash avoidance. And then one page had a banner ad at the bottom that took 1/3 of the viewing area on my iPad; two other pages had pop-up boxes of info that never loaded, so I couldn’t even find out the standard features of the particular model I was looking at; when I finished looking at one model and wanted to check out another model and clicked on the “new” button up top, the manufacturer names never loaded; etc. etc. etc. Hate hate hate. And then, of course, I took the time to send them a complaint email, telling them where I had problems, and the response was “please send screenshots.” Dude — I am not your beta-tester, I am not going to spend an hour re-creating the problems I had the first time around. Do your damn job.

    Not that I’m, umm, cranky about that or anything.

  29. “how much would you spend on a pillow? It looks like a really good one is $250 – $350 but considering how much use you get out of it the cost per hour is pretty low.”

    When I was having neck pain, and we were walking back to the car after dinner, I spontaneously wandered into a fancy mattress/pillow/back store and bought a $200 contoured foam pillow. It worked well to alleviate the pain, but I stopped using it after that. Pilates works much better at preventing all pain, anyway.

    My DD likes my $200 pillow, though. So she uses it.

  30. Milo, you know you can count on me. :-)

    “And, I’ve had mine 3 years. That’s $41/year. Would you pay $41 for a perfect shirt?”

    But mine wouldn’t last three years, because I suck at clothes. :-) I am apparently turning into my MIL, who drops food onto her bosom every single meal.

    OTOH, Rhett, I paid something like that for a Tempur-Pedic pillow. They got me at a vulnerable time (I was already paying another digit for one of their mattresses, so what’s a couple hundred bucks for a pillow?). OMG, totally worth it! I actually now find it harder to sleep when I travel, because none of the places I visit have such a comfy, perfect pillow (or mattress). When DH and I do retire and travel, we’re going to have to take a steamship or something so I can take my pillows with me. . . .

  31. Talbots t-shirts are pretty great–they usually have some white ones that are not see through.

  32. Rhett – I bought DH a My Pillow for his birthday and it has solved his sleep issues (he was waking up at 4 or 5 and not able to get back to sleep). I bought one for myself and hate it (I find it too lumpy but it really works for him). I still love the latex pillow that came with our bed five years ago (I know it’s old in pillow years but have not tried anything that I like as much). I’ve heard good things about the Garnet Hill pillows.

    Ivy – I have not ventured into the expensive t-shirt arena but several of my mom friends swear by the James Perse ones.

  33. Lark, that would be my type of tshirt if it fit perfectly (did not pull at the hips) and wore well. It’s worth the money and in line with my new minimalist style. Interestingly, they have a store very close to me that I unknowingly passed by on a walk last Sunday. Although I’m not in the market for new clothes. next time I walk that way I’ll check them out.

    I bought some $5 pillows at Kohl’s and they were just fine for me. OTOH, my H is very picky and prefers pricier pillows.

    Yes! Netflix interface is horrible!

  34. I guess there one new gadget this year that’s useful–the Tile, to find our keys (or phone, when the ringer is turned off).

  35. In my hunt for girls special occasion dresses I came upon a label called David Charles. I love those dresses but they are very pricey. They tend to go on sale though so if they go low enough I may pick one up.

  36. “drops food onto her bosom every single meal.”
    So there is an advantage to being flat-cheated after all! About half the bites I drop manage to land on the napkin in my lap. The rest go off to the side, or might hit the tummy on the way down, but would never be stopped by my bosom.

  37. Lemon – I am horrified at those brats on the bus. I’m coming up there. You’re to talk nicely to the principal while I hop on the bus and crack some skulls. That poor little dear. VERY grumpy about this now.

    DH thinks the expensive pillows are worth every sent. I like the cheap flat ones so in average, I guess our nights aren’t that costly.

  38. Mole pastes. So much easier! In the pressure cooker (yes, MM, the InstantPot!) with frozen boneless skinless chix thighs, come back 30-40 minutes later, weeknight mole!

  39. Lemon, if you go straight to the principal, the first question will probably be “what did the driver say?” So give the driver a day. In the meantime, have your child document who does what how many times. She can have a sheet prepared in advance, so she just has to make tic marks, or she can just leave the phone camera running. Right now, she needs to know that she is precious and deserving of protection. In the long run, she will need to know how to deal with crap herself. Keep us posted!

  40. A lot of districts have cameras on the bus that include sound. I think you have to go to the Principal or Asst Principal right away. That is horrible. I know it happens, but your child shouldn’t have to feel unsafe on the bus.

    We bought something for DD that is totally non totebaggy, but very fun. Spectacles from Snapchat. If your kid loves Snapchat, it’s a really cool add on. The picture quality is great. It was a gift, so I can’t really justify the 129$ price, but they’re a fun gadget that works well.

  41. “Mole pastes.”

    I swear to God, I read that as “mole pasties.”

    I might have just lost the ability to function for the rest of the afternoon.

  42. I think I discovered this before 2016, but I continue to love Tazo Wild Orange tea. We are working with various consultants/contractors on remodeling so perhaps next year I’ll be more interesting.

  43. LfB, would the mole pasties be worn along with a tiny G-string? (Or were you picturing the Cornish version?)

  44. I learned about the ingenuiTEA thing on here… I love it. I can use tea leaves at work instead of tea bags (because I am a tea snob). Makes my mid-afternoon pick me up much better.

    Other than that, I am boring! No new products in 2016 that were noteworthy…

  45. We sort of inherited new stuff when we bought the California house. The on-demand water heater works well. The Nest thermostat is nice. We got those Ring doorbells for both houses, and they’re really great. I never have to answer the door again. I just cause people to jump out of their skins by talking through the intercom thing. I can answer the door in California when I’m in Denver! Highly recommend.

  46. “LfB, would the mole pasties be worn along with a tiny G-string? (Or were you picturing the Cornish version?)”

    Oh, no, there were definitely G-strings and sparklies involved.

  47. Positive–the Container Store. DS got the measurements of his dorm room and furniture over the summer. (Even by college dorm standards, his room is tiny with little storage). They have so many different items that we could find sturdy stuff that fits perfectly under the bed and in his closet to maximize storage. He claims he actually uses the containers most of the time.
    Negative–Dicks Sporting Goods delivery service. We bought a treadmill that they had in stock. They blew off the scheduled delivery date, and it took repeated phone calls before they finally delivered it–more than two weeks after we bought it. And the customer service person was rude. Never shopping there again.

  48. Lark — How do you keep a white t-shirt stain-free over several years? Even if I wash in hot water, use stain boosters, etc., my white t-shirts will get yellow underarm stains. So I don’t spend too much on white t-shirts, since I usually replace them every year.

  49. @Lark – for the amount that I have spent on inferior shirts that I only get a couple of wearings out of before they get a hole/get misshapen, I may be willing to give the expensive shirt a try. The neckline on that one is perfect.

    I tried Talbots, but I didn’t love the fit, and it still got a hole quickly. I was thinking of trying Brooks Brothers, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I had high hopes for Everlane, but no dice. The first shirt I got from there was the perfect style, but then got a hole after a few months. The second shirt was really see-through.

  50. DH bought a sous vide and loves it. It’s like a new toy.
    I like the rice cooker i bought last year, which was about $30 so much less than the whole sous vide package.

    DS bought me an Aladdin tea infuser travel mug, so that I can be a tea snob away from home too.

    Newest impulse buys at Costco yesterday were a cordless lithium battery stick vac (I can now retire the broom!) and BackBeat FIT wireless earbuds.

    I want to retire the Blu ray player as a Netflix/Amazon streaming device. The TV is at least 8 years old, so we need a new streaming device but no idea what to get and DS inconveniently went back to college. What is easiest? Chromecast? Some kind of stick?

  51. Thanks everyone for the advice. I ended up emailing the Principal, who responded within 20 minutes, coping in the bus transportation director. Thus far I’m pleased with his initial response and investigation plan. Fingers crossed.

  52. I like the Google Home audio stuff that DH got – we can now use the speakers that were previously wired with the little doohickey that he set up. So now we can play stuff from our phones into the speakers! The Hamilton soundtrack has been on heavy rotation. :) And Rhett, I got Spotify so now I can listen to most (NOT ALL, darn it) of the albums that I have on CD. :)

    White t-shirts – I find that with stains, etc., I end up replacing them often. I have on heavy rotation the Uniqlo extra warm shirts – they are good for the cold house under a fleece.

  53. Benefits, Ita re Dick’s. Sad that they took over Sports Authority. I’ve ordered from them twice. It went ok, except for the obnoxious game of switching prices around. But I can’t stand the way their stores are set up, and the employees are zero help.

  54. Scarlett, have you considered a Roku? I find it very simple to use and it streams everything I could possibly want.

    Ivy, what about Lands End tee-shirts? They’re usually a decent thickness.

  55. Lemon, that sounds good! I hope your daughter is encouraged by knowing help is starting its engines.

  56. Scarlett – we have both the chromecast and the Amazon fire stick. I find the fire stick much better since you don’t have to cast it from somewhere else. It also has netflix on it.

  57. “LfB, would the mole pasties be worn along with a tiny G-string?”

    Music to go along with that:

  58. This is the only deodorant I’ve used that completely eliminates white marks on black clothing, and it prevents yellow stains too. They have a spray version also.

  59. My H has a thing against wireless speaker connections. He claims the sound qualify is inferior. Is he right?

    I love my wireless ear buds. So much more convenient.

  60. OT, I asked about toilets here last year, and we’re quite happy with the Toto 1gpf models I installed.

  61. “Using Alexa I turn lights on and off , dim lights , listen to music , radio , shop , turn TV on and off , open garage door , change thermostats settings , and listen to audible books .”

    I can imagine some thieves walking up to every house and yelling, “Alexa, unlock the door,” and, “Alexa, open the garage.”

    My kids have a friend named Alexa. I wonder what happens when she visits a home with an Echo.

  62. Apple CarPlay – it reads your texts to you, let’s you dictate a response, and is just seamless with the phone. Added bonus: it reminds you where you parked.

    Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure technology. Per my newly licensed driver “it’s paid for itself a couple times over.” I’m not asking for details.

  63. He claims the sound qualify is inferior. Is he right?

    He may be thinking of analog wireless speakers from 20 years ago. They were terrible. With digital the ones and zeros are the same wired or wireless.

  64. Scarlett I really like our new AppleTV. It is small and inconspicuous and the interface is easy. I use it with Netflix, DirecTV Now, HBO Go and Hulu

  65. “My H has a thing against wireless speaker connections. He claims the sound qualify is inferior. Is he right?”

    The definitive answer is, “it depends.”

    Wireless speaker connections require wireless receivers at the speaker end, so the quality of those would have a large impact on sound quality. It would also need an amplifier between the receiver and the speaker, which would also affect the sound quality.

    But IMO, once you get up past a certain level of quality, by far the biggest variables affecting sound quality are the speakers and the rooms they’re in.

    If you’re comparing the same speakers in the same room with wired vs. wireless connections, of course you also need to look at what kind of wires you’re using, as they can also affect the sound. I think it’s likely that you won’t have as many options for a good amp at the speaker end as you do at the source end.

  66. Actually that’s not quite true. If you have the speakers hard wired to a source it’s likely analog as well. The point stands that he may be thinking analog c. 1998 vs. digital today.

  67. My H has a thing against wireless speaker connections. He claims the sound qualify is inferior. Is he right?

    Yes, but it’s gotten a lot better and for some applications, like the woofer to go with your home theater speakers / soundbar, it’s not like whatever decay you get from having it be wireless is going to be noticeable.

    I think I’ve mentioned before that I have an Echo Dot with a wired connection to my good receiver connected (wired) to the good speakers. So I hear in pretty good detail just what quality the Dot is wirelessly receiving / streaming from the cloud, and I find that sound quality fine, not distorted. Always assuming your home wifi is reasonably fast and stable, of course.

  68. “With digital the ones and zeros are the same wired or wireless.’

    At some point you need to convert from digital to analog, and that’s where there could be differences you hear.

  69. I can imagine some thieves walking up to every house and yelling, “Alexa, unlock the door,” and, “Alexa, open the garage.”

    You can imagine it, but most of the products that work with Alexa won’t let you do that. We did a fair amount of research before we started setting up the lights and so on to work with the Echo.

  70. Different people have different thresholds above which they can’t hear differences between sound systems. People with tin ears are lucky in that they can be perfectly happy with very inexpensive systems.

  71. Those Totos are worth the money. I have two Totos and the others are DXV. It is a brand from American standard that has nice designs, but I do not think the quality is as good as the Toto.

    We went to visit friends and they have the Echo, and a kid named Alexa. There is a setting that allows you to say “echo” instead of Alexa to make it respond to everything.

  72. The burglars could stand outside and yell “Kitchen lights on! Kitchen lights off!” over and over, which would definitely get irritating.

  73. We’ve had that Anova sous vide for a few years but DH told me he needed an upgrade soon so you all probably have the model that he wants. We love it – especially when entertaining because it makes the timing of the meal a lot more flexible.

    I love the Instant Pot – it saved us during our kitchen renovation and enabled us to eat at home most nights.

  74. The point stands that he may be thinking analog c. 1998 vs. digital today.

    That’s what I really mean in saying it’s gotten a lot better.

    But you know, bluetooth connections can get kinda crappy especially as you get distance between source and receiver. And in my car it seems like I sometimes get interference in the phone / car stereo bluetooth connection. I think it’s still fair to say that it’s good to minimize the number of wireless connections you have between where your music is stored to the receiver to the speaker — but not to the point where it’s worth forswearing the whole concept of cloud storage and streaming music!

  75. “most of the products that work with Alexa won’t let you do that. ”

    How do they prevent it?

  76. BTW, thieves do not have to be very sophisticated in this area to break into cars, or your homes via the garage. The police keep sending alerts to remind people to lock their cars because they keep getting calls about robberies. Their cars have been stolen, and some of the thieves have entered their homes via the garage using the openers in the cars. People must keep forgetting to lock their cars even when the car is sitting in the driveway. The stolen cars came from people that left their car keys in the car. These crimes generally occur around here at night, but some have even happened during the day.

  77. How do they prevent it?

    You can only lock the doors with Alexa, you can’t unlock them.

    A few things worth noting: first, this is the first smart lock Alexa works with. Second, you can’t use Alexa to unlock your door, because that would pose some security issues if someone could stand outside of your door or a window and simply shout to open your door.

  78. Finn,

    August’s lock communicates with your phone to determine your location and unlock the door when you approach.

  79. Lauren,

    I just saw that. It’s so cool to read about the decedents of the first announcement.

  80. “But you know, bluetooth connections can get kinda crappy especially as you get distance between source and receiver.”

    I think that may be the source of any quality problems he’s experienced. I’ve experienced blips here and there, which are probably not that uncommon.

  81. “August’s lock communicates with your phone to determine your location and unlock the door when you approach.”

    So August will unlock your door for anyone with your phone?

  82. So August will unlock your door for anyone with your phone?

    If you want – it’s configureable. You can also remotely lock your phone if it gets stolen which would disable the functionality.

  83. SONOS speakers are very high quality. Entirely wireless. You can play the same or different music in every room. The company is working with Amazon and Google for simple voice control via their boxes. We ripped all our cds in uncompressed format to a free standing storage device, or you can use an old laptop for your library. Also most streaming services available.

  84. I stopped getting yellow stains on shirts when I switched deodorant. I use Secret Clinical Strength antiperspirant/deodorant and no more yellow stains. This was a number of years ago.

    Wow this feels pretty personal :)

  85. “I find the fire stick much better since you don’t have to cast it from somewhere else.”

    I don’t even know what this means!
    “To cast”??

    Watching things on TV is so darn complicated. Does Apple TV work with Amazon Prime streaming?

  86. Lark – that’s what DW uses. I know because I buy it at Walmart.

    I’m annoyed because the dentist diagnosed two “tiny, tiny cavities” today. “I probably won’t even have to numb you. I just want to take care of them before they get worse.”

    I don’t know why I still let this bother me. They’re going to be the same imperceptible white compound that I have everywhere else. I brush and floss. It’s not like people feel guilty for needing glasses. Still, there’s this tinge of guilt.

  87. Scarlett, you “cast” something by starting the video on one device (e.g., your phone) and click on the relevant buttons to cast it to your TV. So if I’m watching Archer on my phone and DH says he wants to see it, I use the TV’s remote to switch to the “Chromecast” input and click a few links.

  88. You guys have me thinking. How hard would it be for someone to mimic the signal for LfB’s new keyless locks? I know that there is a device they can use to reproduce the signal of your doorclicker, if it’s used close to this device. And somebody got into our garage a few times. Do locks for house doors work similarly to either of those? The push button sounds very convenient.

    Milo, I’m convinced that cavities are only loosely related to brushing. My dad, who didn’t brush as a kid and had a mouth full of metal, disagrees, but my mom did brush and she has a ton of fillings too. I’ve always brushed, but have never glossed or had a cavity. My son refuses to brush and has had one small cavity in a baby tooth. Idk what my sisters’ dental hygiene regimens are, but they have had one cavity between the two of them. Idk what it is. Not genetic, with our parents’ teeth. Not the large amount of milk my sisters and I drink, because our parents do the same. But I can’t believe that the three of us are all perfect with dental hygiene. Like I said, I never have flossed regularly, just when something bugs me, maybe once a year on average (& sometimes not for years)

  89. Saac – you’re probably right.

    As to your question about remote control door operators, Google “rolling code generators.” I would do it but I’ve got Pilates at seven

  90. Lauren, that sounds like the hypothetical situations people use to describe why consent is required before sex.

  91. But if you want to start watching with the TV, rather than casting from another device, will Chromecast do this better than roku or Apple TV or the blue ray itself which seems to take forever to boot up?

    Maybe I need to bribe DS to come by for lunch this week.

  92. Lemon, there must be something in the air – my DD was walloped on the bus this morning too.

    Good for you for going to the principal. I know that the videos in our buses are only saved for a few days before they are overwritten (old tech) and so if you do not report promptly and the other kids continue going after your child, it is hard to prove a pattern of behavior.

    I am going to talk to the driver in the morning as well so he is aware, but driving a bus in rotten weather is hard and I realize he can’t manage some of these kids every minute.

  93. Alexa doesn’t have any parental controls, so we have had a few close calls when the younger kids’ song requests are misinterpreted….

  94. Off-topic, and not intended to start a political discussion:

    Rocky, were you the one holding the sign “You know things are messed up when librarians start marching” that DW’s aunt took a picture of at the march?

  95. I don’t get that sign, unless she’s a new librarian and doesn’t remember how librarians stood up to the PATRIOT act’s invasions of privacy like nobody else. She also needs to learn about librarians in Timbuktu when militants tried to burn the library’s holding.

  96. I’m glad to hear people like Toto toilets. We just bought one this weekend (but have to have part of the floor retiled before we can have the new toilet installed).

  97. The bus is the Wild West. DS reports terrible behavior on the bus. Sometimes he says they are joking but at other times IMO it crosses the line. Other parents (not on his bus) have reported kids for bullying on the bus which the school has taken seriously.

  98. I just realized that apparently I have Apple Carplay. I like the features, but I’ve never used the text-to-voice feature. I’ll have to investigate. Really, this entire discussion makes me feel a little overwhelmed in how I fail to learn and benefit from the latest technology.

    I agree the school bus can be a wild place. I’m sorry to hear about the bullying, and I hope your schools help resolve things asap.

  99. I really like my Calphalon non-stick pan, recommended here last year. It’s durable and relatively light weight, important for me. I’m sure I will be buying more Calphalon as I replace older pans. Also, I have been very pleased with my Copper Chef pan, one of those seen on TV items that seem too good to be true.

  100. Oh my gosh how did we all miss listing the best product of 2016 – our packing cubes!!!! I am using them today for travel – thank you Houston!!!!!

  101. Rocky, were you the one holding the sign “You know things are messed up when librarians start marching” that DW’s aunt took a picture of at the march?

    Ha! No. I was with a bunch of Mennonites holding a sign that said (in Spanish, English, and Arabic), “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor”.

    And S&M is quite right. Librarians have a tradition of cranky activism.

  102. How hard would it be for someone to mimic the signal for LfB’s new keyless locks?

    From a quick read it required dual factor authentication. The lock knows where anyone who has access is via you’re phone’s GPS. So, if the lock thinks you’re at work and it gets a code saying open from your front yard, it’s going to deny the request. Is it theoretically possible someone could hack the GPS feed? Sure. But anyone with the skills to do that would have long since hacked BofA, Fedwire or SWIFT and moved a couple billion offshore.

  103. OMG I totally forgot the packing cubes that fit perfectly into my new spinner suitcase! Yesyesyes. Freaking awesome.

    “How hard would it be for someone to mimic the signal for LfB’s new keyless locks?”

    Umm, gee, I am hoping hard? We do not have locks that work on a remote, like a GDO, or from a phone. We just have the kind where you punch in a code instead of turning a key. That code then releases the tumblers and you have like 10 seconds to turn the deadbolt before it locks again.

    I know someone could hack it by guessing the right combination. Never occurred to me that someone could hack it using a remote/wireless device. But the house also has a security system and DH set up cameras on all the entrances. And we basically just have the cars in the garage, and they survived a decade in the driveway, so that risk seems low. I guess someone could break into the garage for the snowblower and golf clubs, but that seems like a lot of effort for a pretty small payoff.

    Basically, we are just looking for nuisance deterrents vs. OMG kind of security. The kind of break-ins we’ve had here to date tend to fall into the “petty”/”opportunistic” category, so we’re just trying to make the opportunity a little less appealing.

    Really sorry to hear about the school bus troubles of late. Hoping these all get addressed quickly and safely.

  104. Thanks Rhett! That satisfied my curiousity and I hope it took care of any panic for LfB that my question may have caused.

    Louise, schoolbusses have always been the Wild West. All through my school years we had the same bus driver, and she put the fear of gawd in us early, and held it all the way through. But for high school, I had to transfer onto another bus where we couldn’t put our bags on the floor because of the tobacco juice.

    Rocky, Nice! Mine was “e pluribus unem” and “united we stand” with a row of little characters cut from fabric scraps, all holding hands. No Arabic writing, but one of them had a hijab. And it had a flag.

  105. “How hard would it be for someone to mimic the signal for LfB’s new keyless locks?”

    Our front door is flanked by transom windows. Far easier than hacking into any security systems would be to simply put a rock through the window (there are plenty of rocks readily available), reach through, and unlock the door by hand. It would be even easier to do this at the basement door in total privacy.

  106. When our townhouse was built 28 years ago every one was wired with a basic security system. The smoke alarms are linked to the system (each unit is completely separate – there are no common indoor areas). I don’t know anyone who uses the service now. Everyone has ground level windows, including a slider in the back, and no one has a lot of valuable stuff (they wouldn’t live here if they did). Over the years, the people who activated it were concerned (unnecessarily) about violent crimes, not property crimes. No one has electronic locks, although there is no reason that they or more elaborate smart home systems could not be installed. I didn’t bother with a remotely controlled thermostat on the HVAC replacement – we are in the house most of the time anyway.

  107. We have the same attitude as LfB. If you want to get into the house, you’ll get in. There are first-floor windows you can easily break. We too have the push-button code locks, and I like them for the same reason Laura does. Can they be hacked? Probably. But not easily. And our cleaning service has our key, so someone could steal it from there and copy it. It isn’t Ft. Knox.

  108. “When our townhouse was built 28 years ago every one was wired with a basic security system. ”

    Ours too. We’ve never activated it, but we are not on the ground floor.

    Even though I live in the apparent National hotbed of “carnage”, most of the crime in my neighborhood is also property crime of least resistance plus some drunken idiocy and minor drug possession. DH wants to put in the buzzer system that connects to smartphones and has video, but I think that has more to do with it being cool/techy than an actual need for increased security. And it’s not like we constantly have unknown/uninvited visitors ringing the bell.

  109. DH insisted on getting the Xfinity home security system for the California house. My old office had a security system, and the false alarms were enough to drive you mad. Colorado gets infestations of Miller moths and they would set off the stupid alarm at work. I’d rather have stuff stolen than deal with false alarms. I lost that particular battle, but I turn the system off whenever I can.

  110. There is always a wave of break ins in my area right around the holidays but really throughout the year, so everyone has alarms and more and more people are installing cameras at home. This past year there were actual home invasions (and crazily enough they caught this one guy who had committed a few home invasions and he had been using a fake AK-47) and there was a huge 60 inch Thermador range taken from a new house that was on the market. Neighborhoods hire off duty police officers to patrol for several hours per day and are now putting security cameras up around their entrances.

  111. Rhett, if my mother had had one of those robots, I would have had to kill both it and her. DH wants to put up more cameras but it reminds me too much of my mother watching my every move and listening to my every phone call.

  112. We are in quite a safe area but a few years ago DH’s car was almost car jacked in the store parking lot. Do not leave keys in ignition even if there is a passenger waiting for you in your car.
    Then one of our senior neighbors was followed from the same grocery store and as he exited his car the thief threatened him and took credit cards. With extra security at the shopping plaza nothing more happened. Random crimes of opportunity do happen even in safe areas so be conscious of your security.

  113. “My old office had a security system, and the false alarms were enough to drive you mad. Colorado gets infestations of Miller moths and they would set off the stupid alarm at work.”

    Yeah. Our primary motivation was definitely of the “property crimes” nature: DH’s shop got ripped off several times, including once when they drove a freaking panel truck back there and offloaded almost everything but the gazillion-pound table saw. After the first time, we specifically installed a motion detector back there, but the dust and the mice had it going off all the time, so it was really not useful. So instead we just went very low-tech: a hardened steel padlock that is almost unbreakable and bars on the windows.

    [I gotta say, we do seem to have some persistent opportunists — they went through one padlock, we upgraded it, they got through that, we upgraded again, they couldn’t get through that and so went through the window. Then a year or two ago they arrested someone for multiple garage break-ins and tool theft, and knock on wood, we haven’t had problems since.]

    OTOH, I do keep the regular alarm system on the house — not because I realistically believe that our personal safety is at risk, more because I’ve always hated being alone in the house in the dark (and being responsible for kids when DH is gone is even worse). I only bother to use it at bedtime when DH is traveling. And DH has mounted some highly-visible cameras around the house as a deterrent (and several more that are not so highly visible as evidence in case the first set fails).

  114. “Really, this entire discussion makes me feel a little overwhelmed in how I fail to learn and benefit from the latest technology.”

    Amen to that. It is so much harder without in-house technology tutors.

    And yes, forgot to salute Houston for the awesome packing cubes. Thanks!! They really rock.

    My favorite low-tech, low-cost find this year was a PaperMate Clear Point Elite mechanical pencil. SOOO much better than the cheapo ones I used to buy by the ton at Costco. It’s like writing with a pen, but you can erase it so no commitment.

  115. Our apt was built in the same decade as Meme’s townhouse, and also has a built-in alarm system. We don’t use ours. I don’t know if anyone does. They are most noticeable with new neighbors. When someone moves out, part of the apartment reset is turning on the ding dong that goes off every time the front door is opened. it can be irritating until the new person learns how to turn it off. My parents got an alarm while I was in college. I can’t tell you how many times I spoke with the sheriff in the driveway, convincing him that I am the daughter and it’s all OK. There was an actual false alarm this winter. Mom laughed and laughed at memories of me tripping the alarm by mistake.

  116. “the ding dong that goes off every time the front door is opened”

    When the kids were young, we just hung some chimes on the front door knob so we’d hear if they opened the door, or if they’d left the door unlocked and someone else opened it. Very easy to turn off.

  117. S&M – I liked the front door signal when the kids were little (Finn’s chimes are also a good alternative). Just in case one of them decided to open the door, I would hear that little ding dong. It didn’t annoy me – and of course I turned it off once they were older.

  118. LfB, I think the combo lock I installed on our back door is similar to the one you have on your garage door. It was very useful when the kids were small and would want to go play in the back yard, but we didn’t want to leave the door unlocked, or have them locked out.

    It’s still good when I’m working in the yard, especially if no one else is home. DD also uses it when she goes out for a run so she can let herself back in without having to carry a key.

    I think in your case, it’s important to lock the door from the garage into your house.

  119. @Finn — Garage detached from the house. So both “human” door into garage and back door into house have the combo lock.

    I gotta say, we SO love not having to remember keys that I may never go back. Although the downside is the Key of Shame has gone unused. (That would be the one we bought after DD lost about the 6th key — Hello Kitty key on a lovely pink lanyard)

  120. LfB, do both locks share a common combo? I’d set up two different combos if it were my house.

    Do you have any other lock on the door to your house?

    I would have a second lock, e.g. a deadbolt if you have the combo on your latchset, and use that, at a minimum, when we have extended time away.

    Our back door, with the combo latchset, has a keyed deadbolt that we keep locked most of the time. We unlock it when we leave through the back door, and the idea is to lock it when we re-enter the house, although DD does forget sometimes.

  121. @Finn — yes, that’s almost exactly what we have.

    Right now it is on the same combo. I am not particularly happy with that, for obvious reasons, but DH set it up. We don’t have the second deadbolt, guess that’s what the cameras are for.

  122. “We don’t have the second deadbolt, guess that’s what the cameras are for.’

    A deadbolt is a lot cheaper than a camera and recorder, and probably more effective in preventing unauthorized entry, even a cheapie $10 deadbolt.

    It also helps to reinforce the strike.

  123. Yes. Please talk to my husband. :-)

    Also, the camera system is a sunk cost. He wanted it for the shop; I agreed when we thought we had an attempted break-in in the middle of the night (long story, we were wrong, it was the cops checking out an alarm, but it took me like 2 days to figure that out). So the question is really what is the incremental cost/benefit of a beefed-up secondary deadbolt system when one has a prominently-placed camera deterrent system?

  124. You can get a deadbolt in the $10 to $15 range, and perhaps spend that much again reinforcing the strike.

    It’s also the sort of project that’s small enough that it might be a good way for a dad to spend a few hours (including shopping) with his DS and/or DD.

    BTW, that’s one regret I have looking back on DS’ rapidly disappearing childhood. He was so busy doing totebag kid stuff, and I was busy just trying to get everything done that totebaggy parents need to do, that we didn’t spend a lot of time doing stuff like that together.

  125. @Finn — one of my favorite things is that DS is trying SO hard to be mini-DH. He will troop over to my mom’s to help her “fix” things (usually he can’t, but he is so proud of trying). He will take out trash and recycling without (too much) whining (and comment on how he’s “getting good” at it, which tells me even when he complains, he’s proud). But my favorite thing is that DH sometimes makes pens on a mini-lathe, and he has started teaching DS how to do it — he will order a bunch of blanks and caps and such and let DS pick which ones are for him, which he wants to make for me or my mom, etc., and then they will go at it. It is just freaking awesome to see how proud he is, and to see them together like that.

    Same feeling when I see DD and DH sitting at the table working through some math or chemistry problem.

  126. laura – my husband makes pens, too! Sometimes he finds an odd piece of wood at the beach or a certain neighborhood and makes a pen from that, which is fun to use (and think about its origin)!

  127. If you post a link to an image file that is on a publicly accessible website, and put the link in a line by itself like

    web address of linked image

    it will show the image. An image file would be something with a .jpg or .gif file extension, for example. If you are linking to a webpage, with a .htm or .html extension, that is not an image — even though it may have an image on the page! — and it will not show in the post. You should copy the address of the image itself, not the whole webpage, and post just the link for the image file.

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