A brief windows flirtation

When we came back to the Island I purchased for my daughter a cheap Asus Vivobook to use to complete assignments and such for high school. As the requirements for the laptop were simply to have the ability to login and complete work in Google classroom, I didn’t want to invest much in the way of hardware. A Mac was certainly out of the question, and I had little faith in Chromebooks.

When my son started to use a laptop running Linux and I was taken back by the price of a new Mac for myself (and their then faulty keyboards), it seemed briefly that we would be an Apple free household for the first time since I purchased a Mac Classic, via a Long and McQuade payment plan, many years ago.

My purchase of a new MacBook this past July nixed that trend, and now a call from Combat Computers has likely killed that idea for some time.

Her Vivobook was slow at the best of times, but lately the cursor would always continuously spin, not allowing access to the startup menu and preventing me later from accessing utilities. I couldn’t even boot into safe mode and the processor was always at 100%.

As my knowledge of Windows PC’s is about zero I took it to combat computers for repair and they just repeated back the same result I had but with the added opinion that the soldered on memory was likely damaged. Nothing can be done they say.

And thus ends my flirtation with cheap hardware running Windows.

Moshi Clearguard

I bought a new MacBook quite awhile back and now that I am in between projects I finally am finding time to outfit my workspace at home.

Looking at the other keyboards in the house I thought it would be wise to invest in a keyboard protector of some kind. After a short burst of research I settled on Moshi’s Clearguard product, for both the fact that it was readily available and its reasonable price. A quick order on PChome and it was here within 24hrs.

Prepping for its’ use I realised one of the reasons why I wanted one in the first place, as the white cloth I was using showed the telltale signs of the poor air quality in Taiwan, black soot.

Unfortunately I don’t like typing with it on top of the keys. Despite being only .1mm thin, it feels entirely too different, and my already atrocious typing has taken a turn for the worse. I’m going to give it a week but I have a feeling that I’ll be removing it and passing it on to someone else.

Edit: I’ve taken the cover off the keys and won’t likely use it again. It had a real adverse effect on my typing. When the cover was closed and connected via HDMI it tended to overheat.

Woofer Speaker


Design: Sander Mulder & Dave Keune, Buro Vormkrijgers
This is functional kitsch; the wrong becomes the new right. By adding a function to an otherwise grotesque object, it acquires new aesthetic values, becoming an object of desire. Pun intended, this woofer holds the mids between an addition to your sound system and your loyal 4 footed companion.

Maybe this would be better suited to the office as I am sure it would scare the heck out of my daughter. Available at POAA for €599.
Found via SwissMiss.

Fotofalls photo holder

I’ve bought a few of these when I used to visit the design shops in Bangkok. I still like them and think they make great center pieces for tables. This version is sold at cb2 for $55.00US but I am sure you can get similar designs in Taipei and elsewhere.

AllyZabba Blanket

Blankets seem to be one of those items you never have to buy – at least we haven’t. They have been a popular and appreciated gift for both our children. If you can you will want to convince, wink, nudge, your family and friends to purchase this one for you. This blanket looks it might be the softest blanket you will ever receive. Perhaps get two – one for you and your baby to share. Why shoudl babies have all the fun? The AllyZabba baby blanket is silky polyester satin on one side, microfiber plush on the other. It comes in Coral, Kiwi, or Aqua, and each blanket has the same retro-dot pattern on the back. Machine washable. $59.95US from AllyZabba. Enter code “special10” during checkout and you can receive 10% off your entire order. Expires the end of May.

Baby Plane Spoon

I used to treat mealtime as a chance to play and learn; something which lately we have been trying to de-emphasize in an effort to get our daughter to focus. Maybe it’s just the age but mealtime has become a struggle in getting our daughter to finish her food within a reasonable amount of time. Sometimes I think she would sit there all day if we gave her the chance. Perhaps we are being too “dry” and objects like this might just breathe some life (and speed) back into dinner. Comes in the typical boys and girls colours. $18.00US from Target. Via Babygadget.

Mini Me Bowls

I love the IKEA bowls we have. They are durable, microwave and dishwasher safe, and are colorful. I think these Mini Me’s are better not just because of them being organic but because they look and feel better. Available in 8 colors, these bowls are coiled by hand, shaped and given a durable food-safe waterproof finish. Suitable for both hot and cold foods, they clean easily with warm soapy water or a damp cloth. They are not recommended for use in a microwave. $12.00US each.

Table Flip Clock

This clock takes those old school flip clocks that were so popular in the 70’s to new … heights. I love the design and like those old bedside clocks the sound of the numbers flipping help detail the passage of time.

Tike Tech Double Stroller

Now that I have two children of the age where they could both be in a stroller I have been looking seriously at some kind of double or tandem strollers. It’s certainly easier than carrying one and pushing the other. For a moment I am going to imagine that I am not living in a city in Taiwan but somewhere that has wide sidewalks and long trails where a sporty stroller like this would be appropriate. The rigged frame and wide tires look perfect for taking your children out for a run. $299.00US by X-Tech Outdoors.

Dombo Cup

With a name which references the famous big eared Disney character the Dombo Cup is wonderfully designed with “big ears” to help children who are just developing their coordination skills. We found similar products like this in the stores in our area but nothing as great as this. Nonbreakable and dishwasher-safe, not for the microwave. $15.00US at the MoMA store.

First Aid Kit For Kids

I always try to remember to take one of our first aid kits with me whenever I go on a walk with my daughter. She tends to suffer more of the usual bumps and scrapes that most kids her age have. This little kit is designed to teach first aid to children ages 7 to 12 and while a good idea is a bit much for her. It’s a good idea to teach kids early how to take care of themselves if they get and this kit includes a flash-card-style first aid manual with easy-to-read instructions to help. Available from REI for $9.95US.

Grobag® Egg™ Room Thermometer

“The colour of the ‘egg’ changes to let you if the room temperature is too low, too high or just right, helping you maintain a safe sleeping environment for your baby. No need to put the light on to read a traditional thermometer!”
An interesting and rather useful ambient interface implementation. What are ambient interfaces? Tom Gross at Fraunhofer gives a good definition based on the work of Gross, Weiser and Brown:
“Ambient interfaces use the whole environment of the user for the interaction between the user and the system. They present digital information through subtle changes in the user’s physical environment such as variations of light, sounds, or movements. They capture natural interactions of the user with physical devices such as switches, buttons, or wheels and translate them into digital commands (Gross, 2002; Wisneski et al., 1998). Ambient interfaces go beyond the classical graphical user interface and do not consume real estate on the computer screen; they make user interaction with the system easier and more intuitive. Their properties of a calm technology (Weiser & Brown, 1996) are particular useful for situations, in which users want and need permanent background information without being disrupted in their foreground tasks.”
Despite just being a working proof of concept, the ambient interface we created called “Girls Ambient Room” has proven to be pretty popular despite little or know marketing on our part. I wonder how we will deal with all these new bits of information entering our environment. Instead of dealing with understanding the complexity of a screen based GUI will be now have to start learning how to read our environment? Hopefully we won’t have to learn to deal with more information but better information. Thinkingliving – egg thermometer. Originally published on Kelake.
Via Popgadget.

Bacon Strips Bandages

More bacon. My daughter loves wearing colourful and fun bandaids. It has gotten to the point that every little bump she gets, and she gets allot of bumps, now requires a kiss and a bandaid to make it feel better. Though she has never tasted bacon and hopefully seldom ever will I am sure she would find these very fun. 15 7.6 cm x 2.5 cm bandages come in a 9.5 cm tall metal pocket tin which also contains a small plastic trinket to “help make even the ouchiest owies feel all better in no time.” From Sprout Home for $4.25US.

Dad Field Bag

Do I really need a bag like this? Not really. My knapsack with a face cloth and towel would suffice. Would I buy one of these? Likely. Diaper bags in general seem like an unnecessary product category with functions that only slightly deviate from your everyday pack. But this often featured bag from Jack Spade is quite well designed, looks great, and adds a couple features that make it practical. The velcro closures which in other instances be a loud annoyance are absolutely a brilliant feature when you think about how you sometimes need to get inside your bag quickly. When someone is about to go pee you don’t have time to fiddle around with fancy buckles. The interior pockets are good for separating smelly stuff , from the non-smelly, and with the addition of a changing pad I no longer have to set down Camren with the worry of staining some shops expensive furniture. Style doesn’t come cheap as this bag with cost you $125.00US from Modern Seed.

Bacon and Egg Bib

While I don’t think I like the idea of promoting the eating of bacon, I do like buying unique well made items such as this. Handmade in Chicago (of all places), these bibs are washable as well as having a layer of clear vinyl for easy wiping. Available from Sprout Home for $16.00US. While you are there you might want to check out the neat wall decals that they have.

Travel Art Portfolio

Catriona is as much a fan of specialized bags as I am. She has bags for school, for her dolls, for her kitchen set, and for going out hiking. At 2 1/2 she is well on her way to being an Imelda Marcos of bags. It doesn’t help that most of her toys come with some kind of carrying case which I think is not such a bad idea except for all the excess plastic around the house. This travel art portfolio is a neat idea for our budding artist. “Ideal for travel, car trips or creative activities, the tote includes twelve pieces of colored chalk, three extra large crayons, three colored pencils, a chalkboard and a 50-page notebook.” She will like this I think. $32.00US from uncommon goods.
Found via swissmiss who is featuring all kinds of wonderful items for children lately.

Polar Sleeper

Even here in Taiwan the weather tends to get a bit cold. This mostly due to the dampness and buildings made from concrete that never seem to shake the cold (it might help if they would build houses that were up to required standards too). Nonetheless there are times having a nice warm sleeper comes in handy. This Polar Sleeper is certainly a huge improvement over the cartoon character junk we see in our city. It looks so cozy I wish I was small enough to fit in it too. $450.00US from Netto Collection.

Bottle Drying Stand

Found this neat item via SwissMiss. A more visually appealing way to store your baby bottles for drying but likely something that would be quickly sent to the recycling bin. “Somebody finally made a bottle drying rack that doesn’t look like it belongs in a genetics lab. This handy little tool looks good enough to leave out on the counter. 7.9″ x 9″ x 3.5″. Product certified and tested, Non toxic materials.” $11.95US from Sparkability.

Tom Bihn’s Aeronaut Maximum Carry-On Bag

One of problems with carrying a duffle when traveling is how everything slides back and forth inside the main compartment. I solved this to an extent by buying a number of different Eagle Creek Pack-It Sac’s The Aeronaut solves this problem by dividing the compartment into thirds – a large main compartment with two “substantial” side pockets allow you to exert some control over your stuff from the outset. If you are using this as intended, as a carry-on, you might just be able to get away without using extra organizers all together.
I always associate Tom Bihn’s products with carrying laptops and though you could use a brain cell with this bag I’m a bit unsure as to how well it would work in practice.
As expected this bag has all the usual high quality materials you expect from a Tom Bihn bag including 1050 ballistic nylon and 10 YKK Uretek “splash-proof” zippers. It should fit most airline requirements for carry-on luggage but I have no doubt that this bag could survive even if you put it on the wing. Available for Pre-order from Tom Bihn for $160.00US.
Originally appeared in Pop Wuping.

Letter Cushions

I love the look of these Letter Cushions by childhood interiors. Big fat colorful letters on pillows to use for fun jumping sessions with the added benefit of being able to practice our letters at the same time. I love varying the tactile objects that my daughter can use for learning, it seems easier for her to learn if she can actually pick up (or jump on) an object vs. just looking at a picture. It’s a shame they are so expensive as these pillows look like a definite buy otherwise. 20£ per pillow from Childhood Interiors. Found via Blogging Baby.

iPod Chair Man

A fun way to hold your iPod after “a long day of being hauled around”. The feet are actually small speakers which allow you to plug in your iPod and listen to your child’s favourite audible story or simple sing-a-long songs. I mention voice recordings because these speakers certainly won’t produce high fidelity sound but will look great on a night stand where they can faithfully tell stories every night. Available from Brightonnet. Found via PopGadget.

Pax-Max Duo Bike

With a growing family and a love of riding bikes (though it’s so hard to do this in Asia) this cool dutch bike lets you take along two of your little ones.
“The frame is galvanized and powder coated. Galvanizing prevents rust.
The Pack-Max Duo is the enlarged version of the Pack-Max: the back wheel is placed further backwards to enlarge the back rack. The rack is extremely stable and can carry heavy weights.
Again, this model is very sturdy because of the crossed frame with double tubes. The weight of the loading on the rack is carried by the frame to prevent neck and shoulder troubles.
You can transport three children on this bike: one in the front seat and two children (aged 2 – 8) in the back seats. The spacious back seats also leave sufficient space for the knees.”
Prices starting at 995 Euro.

Lush Bubble Bars

We have always been pretty sensitive to introducing any new detergents or bath soap to our daughter. We found that Johnsons baby products were what worked best with little or no irritation to her skin. We didn’t see any need for upscale “organic” products. I love the smell of Johnson’s baby soap so much I tend to use it myself. But when it came time for bubbles in the bath we didn’t have much luck. Bubbles mostly came from me working furiously to stir up the soap, which was fun, but not really quite as fun as when we tried Lush bubble bars. Coming in a range of different “flavors” these bath additives create mountains of bubbles to the absolute joy of our daughter. She loves it. The flavors don’t always smell authentic and pink or yellow coloured water isn’t my thing, but so far no skin reactions and quite allot of fun. It’s a bit expensive for daily use. If you don’t have the luxury of a Lush shop you can buy it online for $6.30US per 3.5oz bar.

VIP 15 metal pedal bin

We bought a fancy plastic garbage can for diapers that self-seals before our daughter was born – it had the cool Japanese chic about it that seemed to force me to buy it. It was a good concept but unfortunately I could never figure out how to use it. I wish I had bought this four-gallon, hand-crafted pedal bin from Denmark instead. It looks almost too good to put diapers in. On sale at Design within Reach for $169.95US.

Pee-pee teepee

Pretty brilliant. While I prefer to learn the fine art of catching and dodging these Pee-pee teepee’s would make an excellent gift.They help keep you and everything around you dry while changing your baby boy. For $13.00US you get a mini laundry bag which contains 5 Pee-pee teepee’s. Available at Moderntots.

iPod Shuffle for kids

Though they have been available for quite some time their recent reduction in price makes the iPod shuffle all the more accessible. We bought 2 for our daughter as they are actually cheaper than buying a cd player here. One loops constantly while she is sleeping and the other we keep for her to dance and sing to her favourite music in the playroom/dining room. There really are few moments around our house where she isn’t listening or singing to music. I think its a great product when you want to constantly have a long playlist playing in the background but when it my daughter starts asking for particular songs it’s lack of a screen interface becomes a drag. $69.00US at the Apple store. We also bought the iPod USB Power Adapter.

Alessibambino Table Set

Other than clothes, toys, and books I can’t think of other items we buy more frequently for Catriona than drinking cups or table sets (actually are there any other items to buy?). There is so much creative fun ideas being expressed through these simple objects that it’s hard to pass them by without purchasing. The Alessibambino Table Set is one of the more beautiful and fun sets I have seen and coming from Alessi it is of no surprise. The table set is composed of bowl, flat plate, drinking glass, knife, fork, spoon and 3 coasters. I’ll pass on the knife as it’s far too sharp for my daughter and her wild orchestra conducting motions when she hears a song she likes on our kitchen iPod. Available for the all too pricey £49.00 at Panik.

The Cut-N-Seal

This looks like a fun way to present the tired old sandwich that I like to eat and a fun way to include my daughter in our weekend sandwich making. The Cut-N-Seal from The Pampered Chef seals and crimps the filling of your choice between two layers of bread, pastry or other types of dough. Looks like a great way to make some small homemade panzerati or Catriona’s favourite cheese sandwich. $8.75US from The Pampered Chef.

Olivia Backpack

The Olivia series of books have been pretty popular around our house until recently when they have been “put away for awhile”. I could certainly understand the phrase from one book “Olivia you wear me out” and I have said it many times substituting Olivia’s name for my daughter. The Olivia backpack is a great way to carry around all the essentials for the day and take the story with you. This 11” x 7” x 3” backpack features a beaded zipper pull, top carry handle and adjustable webbing straps. $30.00US at Little Packrats. Via Swissmiss.