The Smartphone Case Gift Guide

cell phone caselores

The Case of the Best-Case Scenario for Smartphone Cases for Christmas

Lots of people will be getting new iPhones for Christmas, and the first thing they must have is a great case. OtterBox has been my go-to for stylish and highly functional cases since I started carrying a mobile phone – well, maybe my first iPhone, as I don’t think Otterbox was around when I first started carrying my Motorola flip phone with an antenna.

For my new iPhone 14 Pro, I got several cases as I like to switch up things and match my case with my mood or activity. My main case is a clear case, which lets me show off the beautiful deep purple color of my new phone. The sleek Otterbox Symmetry+ Series ($49.95) case is engineered to say clear, which hopefully means it will not turn yellow in six months, which has been my experience with other clear cases. The case also boasts antimicrobial properties that protect the exterior against some common bacteria, but, as the expected Otterbox disclaimer states, “it does not protect you, the screen, or primarily-interior pieces.”

My favorite things about OtterBox are the fit and durability. All the buttons function easily through the casing, and since it is a matter of when and how many times, not “if” I will drop my phone, I like the fact it is drop tested 3x for military standards. My new favorite feature of the Otterbox cases is the MagSafe integration.

The new magnet-attractive rings on the back of the cases are an elegant solution for using a phone with magnetic charging stands and holders. In the past, I used to have to adhere flat metal plates to the phone or inside of the case, which was not only ugly and potentially damaging to the phone’s surface but often not functional, as the magnet could not hold the weight of the case and phone unless in direct contact with the plate, i.e., not through the thickness of a case.

To have a seamless connection between the built-in MagSafe ring and the charger, I got an Otterbox charger stand ($49.95) for my home, usually residing on my desk, and my car ($49.95), affixing with a vent clip. Both stands secure my phone to the holder. The only bummer is that the supplied cable is a USB-Type-C to USB-Type-C, so I can’t use it with my current regular USB multi-port “cigarette lighter” attachment and my home charger blocks that feature multiple USB ports, but we must all adapt to the times at some point.

For when I am active, such as on my bike or hiking, I opt for the Otterbox Defender Series Pro XT case ($69.95). It’s drop tested 5x for military standards and features a two-piece design for added protection and a secure rubber edge grip. Also, it has MagSafe built in and port covers to keep out dust and dirt. Like the Symmetry clear case, this one also features an antimicrobial finish.

For more fancy outings, I carry the Otter+Pop Symmetry Series case ($59.95) with an integrated swappable PopGrip. The only drawback to the holder on the back is that though it is still wireless charging capable, it is not compatible with MagSafe. But it sure looks fun and fanciful.

As always, I am happy with my Otterbox acquisitions. New phone, new look, new accessories, and features that make life a little easier and a smartphone more fun to use.

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Converting a basement corner into a pandemic podcast studio


The coronavirus pandemic brought about changes in people’s habits and their habitats as they adapted to a new normal. Not only did we work and school from home, but we also sought new pastimes, ways to connect with each other and new sources of information and entertainment.

During the pandemic, the number of podcasters and listeners grew to an all-time high. As of November 2021, says there are more than 2,000,000 podcasts with more than 104 million monthly podcast listeners in the US. With this boom came the trend of the home podcast studio.

Build it, and they will listen

A home-based recording room can be simple – say a few sound-proofing foam tiles glued onto walls. It can also be an inspiring, creative, multi-purpose place that makes you feel excited about being shut into a confined, windowless room to conversate with an audience in the ether, and that’s what I built in my basement.

The unfinished basement of my home had become a catch-all storage area for junk. After several runs to Salvation Army, I cleared out the area. With the help of my neighbor, friend and hobbyist carpenter extraordinaire, Craig Smith, and my son, Stephen, I began framing out the studio.

Sounding boards

Across the largest, longest wall, we installed sound-absorbing Vant wall panels. These stylish upholstered panels are easy to install on a track that we measured and cut for a custom fit of five panels in height and four panels across. The panels not only significantly reduced echo in the room but served as an aesthetic backdrop for videotaping. We lit the room with small spotlights, cleverly shaped like min-Fresnel lamps, from Lowes.

Color me chic

We painted the walls with a plum shade of Sherwin-Williams top-of-the-line Emerald Interior Acrylic Latex paint, appropriately called Soulmate (SW 6270), for a chic and modern look. Because the room was small, measuring approximately 10’ x 13’, we used ProMAr Ceiling Bright White (SW 7007) above, to create the effect of higher overhead space, except for the boxes we built to cover the air ducts, which we painted to match the walls. To seal out moisture from the unfinished concrete floor, we applied Sher-Crete Flexible Waterproofer.

Next step: get floored

While I loved the look of polished concrete, it is not ideal for sound dampening, so we covered the floor with FLOR rug tiles, cut to fit like wall-to-wall carpeting. The handy thing about these tiles is that they can be applied to any surface, and when – not if – someone spills coffee, you can replace just the stained tiles. We chose a contemporary dark grey and white pattern that complemented the wall color and Vant panels.

Budget décor  

Most furnishings and décor came from HomeGoods and its sister store TJ Maxx, such as the faux leather mid-century modern stools, artificial plants, salt lamp, end-table (with a built-in USB charging port), decorative pillows, knick-knacks for the bookshelf, which was from Amazon.  The round table, custom cut to counter height was from Wayfair, as was the sofa, ottoman and artwork.

Essential AV

Now, for the most crucial part of the studio: the electronics. A host mic is the most important item, so I researched the best option for my needs, which was a Blue Yeti X ($139) multi-pattern USB mic that came with Blue Voice software.  I envisioned my initial podcasts as call-in interviews, but post-pandemic I planned on having in-studio guests, so I added an Audio-Technical streaming/podcasting kit (AT2005USBPK, $129), which includes a USB AT2005USB cardioid mic – with both USB and XLR connections, ATHM20x headphones and boom arm.

Because the most successful podcasts are not just heard but seen, I wanted a changeable backdrop in the form of a digital image for videotaping. To accomplish this, we mounted a TCL – 55” Class 5 Series 4K UHD Smart Roku TV – controlled remotely by voice using Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and featuring private listening through the Roku app. As we intended the studio to be a multi-use space, the TV transformed the room into an intimate viewing lounge.

Stand-up studio

Finally, all put together, the new studio was a quiet, visually appealing and imaginative space. All elements, selected for form and function, created an inviting environment that was suitable for podcasting from both an audio and visual perspective, ideal for ideating in a feng shui space surrounded by calming colors and textures, and ready for recreation and unwinding.

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Three Essentials for Easy Riding


Crank it up your biking experience with these must-haves


When enjoying a bike ride, besides the scenery and company, your gear makes up a large part of a bike riding experience. Here are a few must-haves for the road or trail rider to make your outing on two wheels carefree and pleasant.

Smart conversation

Cycling with a friend doubles the fun, though trying to communicate while you ride can be a challenge. The Bluetooth-enabled Sena pi ($99) headset allows you and a companion to converse while you ride with a range up to a quarter of a mile, with a six-hour talk time. The 2-way intercom system features a pair of devices for you and your biking buddy. Two components about the size of thin thumb drives fasten with clips onto your helmet straps. The components house the Bluetooth technology, microphone and speaker and are strung together with a cable that you tuck into your helmet. The system, which works with an app on your smartphone, can convert almost any sport helmet into a smart helmet. A huge advantage to connected riding is that you can watch the road instead of turning around to talk to a fellow rider, which is not just more convenient but safer. Instead of catching up with your pal after the ride, you can chat, give directions, and check in with each other for the duration of your ride.

Vibe with vibrant earbuds

If you enjoy listening to tunes while you ride, pump up your audio experience with JVC’s Gumy Mini True Wireless earbuds ($30). These comfortable small-sized, sweat-and-rain-proof earbuds feature Bluetooth 5.1 technology and a battery life of up to 15 hours with the included USB-C-powered charging case. They conveniently auto-connect right out of the charging case, and they can be controlled remotely and are voice assistant compatible. For the cycling fashionista, you can wear a color to match your jersey with five colors to choose from: black, white, red, blue and green.

Carriers with coolness

How cool is the brand that describes its product’s fastening power as “Secure AF?”  KOM Cycling is the epitome of the cool cyclist brand with products designed by and for cool cyclists. Among their large assortment of accessories, they carry the ultimate carrier, a frame strap ($29.99) for tube and tools that is almost non-existent, but fully functional, durable, and built for speed and performance. The sleek and minimalistic design keeps the weight low and your necessities – tube, CO2 inflator and canisters, tire levers and tube repair tool — streamlined to stay out of your way, Velcroed in a bundle, with a soft nylon lace facing to protect your frame. If you need a bit more capacity, the KOM Cycling Tool Roll ($39.99) features three pockets and is large enough to accommodate your multitool, larger-sized tubes and other essentials, neatly and securely with the ATOP knob lacing system under the seat. Like its accessory-keeping cousin, the roll features non-abrasive materials that won’t scratch your ride.

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Getting a TikTok-loving tech-obsessed teen outdoors

sena ride 1000×750

A ride on the wild side

Like many ‘tween and teen boys, my son played a lot of Fortnite. Okay, too much Fortnite. Hours and hours of Fortnite, sometimes through the night. When he wasn’t playing Fortnite, he was on group chats with his friends or watching TikToks.  I tried to get him involved in other activities, from power tumbling to unicycling, but at the end of the day, nothing beat screen time, until he got a minibike.

His dad bought him a Monster Moto Classic 105cc. It looked like the same minibike our neighbors the Wireman’s used to ride around the campgrounds of Westmoreland, Virginia, in the 1970s. It sat low to the ground, so when his dad rode it, he looked like a Shriner clown in a parade. But when my son was on it, he was a king.

My son loved this minibike, despite the fact it had no suspension and shook him like a rag doll on the muddy ruts of the fields behind our home. After long rides he’d come into the house bent over like an old man, complaining of back pain, but he still loved riding, and he became the kid to know on the block, giving rides to the other kids on the back, or even letting them take a spin, if they were lucky, and their parents said it was okay.

Scream Time vs. Screen Time

With his new-found outdoor hobby, I thought my son would lose interest in technology, but actually, he just began to use it in a different way; and this is when I learned to stop worrying and love the web.

He learned on YouTube how to tweak the governor to make the bike run faster.  According to an odometer app he installed on his iPhone, he reached speeds of 35 mph, which seemed way too fast for this little bike, but as I watched him zip around the trails, he seemed to handle the pace deftly.

Since he was approaching 13 years old, he felt he had outgrown the Monster Moto, and he wanted a more powerful bike, with suspension. He searched for weeks on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist until he found a pre-owned Coleman CT200U-EX CT200-EX Minibike with a camo paint job, and it seemed like a nice little bike. The seller offered to bring it on a trailer to us from Maryland, about an hour and a half away. When he arrived, I stood with my mouth agape looking at the size of this supposed minibike, which looked like a man-size motorcycle.

My son was jittery with excitement as the seller backed the bike down the trailer ramp onto the street. I hated that I hoped it wouldn’t start, so we’d have a good reason to not buy this enormous bike. With one kickstart, the motor roared, and then it purred. My son’s face shone like he had just won a Battle Royale.

Getting Geared Up and Plugged In

As I watched my son immerse himself in his new pastime, I realized how technology was not the enemy.  In fact, it was our friend.  My son learned about safety and basic maintenance by watching YouTube videos, and we looked up trails and the local ordinances and found where he could and couldn’t ride legally. He also read online reviews and shopped online for just about all the gear he needed.

Even the gear itself was high tech. After reading about smart helmets, we chose the Sena Momentum EVO; in fact, we got two of them. My son was thrilled with the idea that he could listen to music or talk on the phone or in real-time with a biking buddy over the built-in microphones.  It also has a mount for a Go-Pro, which he uses to make TikTok videos on his rides. His dad and I have even gotten into the action, as camera operator and on-camera comic relief, such as his dad’s whiskey throttle that rocketed him into my car bumper in the garage.

As with any diversion for the modern teen, an integration with tech keeps them from tiring of it. In my day, the putter of a minibike bumping along a woodsy trail was entertainment enough. Today’s teen rides fully loaded, with connected devices that enhance their enjoyment, and safety. By the same token, tech has made our lives as parents more stress-free, as the Life360 app I put on his phone allows me to track his whereabouts in real-time and even monitor his speed, and with Waze to help him navigate, he will never get lost.

My son still plays the occasional round of Fortnite, usually when the sun goes down, or it’s raining and he can’t ride. Then he entertains himself with YouTube videos of minibike racing and extreme minibike challenges, which we enjoy watching together.

In today’s connected age, parents must accept that banning tech is futile. The best solution is to embrace it in the most positive way. If you can beat it — which you can’t, join it, and go along for the ride. In fact, we just got a couple of road scooters for the adults. The family that rides – and connects by Bluetooth-enabled helmets – together, stays together.

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Home for the quarantine


Make the best of being stuck at home with these five cabin-fever killers

Maybe you once dreamed of how great it would be to cut your commute and work from home full time. Perhaps you imagined the domestic bliss of home-schooling your kids and having more quality time with the family. Now, that’s your reality be default, due to the coronavirus pandemic, and living-working-schooling at home is not all you expected. Well, here’s a few ideas to make your home life more liveable and comfortable while we all ride out this current crisis and look forward to the day when we can leave the house without worry of COVID-19.

A DIY Pillow

The first thing many of us think of about homebody life is sleeping in and nestling in our beds — sleeping in, taking a mid-day nap, or hitting the hay early when you’ve binged watched every great series on Netflix and there’s no place to go out.  Make your snooze time especially cozy with a Coop pillow. This stuff-it-yourself pillow comes with a plushy quilted case that you can fill to your heart’s (or your head and neck’s) desire.  In fact, it came with so much shredded foam filling that I made a smaller travel pillow out of the remainder after I fluffed my pillow to the perfect size.

Good Scents

After being cooped up in the same house day after day can make you miss going places,  and if you’re quarantined with a houseful of people, the air quality can get a bit stuffy. That’s when Moodo can be a mood saver. The electronic air freshener features unique pods that can be dropped into a diffuser to spread a variety of aromas around your indoors environment.   A smart version of the Moodo dispenser can accommodate up to four pods in which you can mix-and-match scents and control with an app on your phone. A smaller, more portable Moodo one-pod diffuser fits discreetly wherever you want, even a car cup holder, to fill the air with exciting fresh fragrances like beach party, lawnscape or classic vanilla.

Smart Switch

Now that you have time at home to do all those chores and fix-ups, finally you can smarten up your living space with Treatlife smart switches. With these sleek switches you can control lights remotely with the Smart Life app on your smartphone, IFTTT, Alexa or Google home devices, so you don’t even have to get out of bed to turn on or off the overhead. You can even schedule lights to come on and welcome you home, or turn them off if you forgot and left them on, when you make a rare venture out of the house, to social distance with friends.

Soft Walls

Designers often advise painting walls a new color to refresh a space, but Vant panels are a way better way to make your space go from blah to brilliant in an afternoon. These cushion-like panels snap into place on a aluminum bracket that can be installed on a wall in minutes. The assortment of colors and textures can accommodate the decor in any room, from the bedroom to a wet bar. At my home we used them for a special ambiance in a home podcast studio, where the panels provided excellent sound-proofing in addition to looking fabulous.

New Old Photos 

Those boxes of old photos and slides have been gathering dust for years, so use your lock-down leisure time to digitize them and make them look like new with Vivid-Pix, a software program that restores photos with artificial intelligence that can improve scanned photos in seconds.  Suddenly sepia-tones and muted colors appear bright and crisp. Our family historian, my cousin, used Vivid-Pix on more than 1,000 photos that he uploaded to a family Facebook page in a single day, to the delight of family and friends who joyfully pursued these once-lost and forgotten photos — keeping precious memories from literally fading away.

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Happy new gear: tech trends for 2019

Packaging – Bandai Namco Flashback Blast

Plug into the latest tech trends for 2019 and stay smart and charged up year-round

Smart stuff

Never again have that empty feeling when you run out of your favorite snack, with Weplenish ($39.99, Amazon). This amazing smart endless snack dispenser takes count of your snacks and automatically re-orders them when the container is running low. Weplenish also holds your favorite k-cup brands like Starbucks, Green Mountain, Nespresso, Dunkin Donut etc., and is compatible with a variety of snacks like KIND Bars, RXBARs, GoMacro Bars, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, and Keebler’s Cookie Variety Pack.

Smells like millennial spirit

Add some atmosphere to your living or work space with Moodo, the first smart aroma diffuser. This room-freshening device sends scents into air with the touch of a button, using an app on your phone, or on the device itself. You can even link it to Alexa or Google Home and control the fragrance with voice commands. Starter packs ($189, with special sale pricing up to 40 percent off) include one aroma diffuser and three scent families. Refill capsule collections are priced at $17.94 to $29.90.

Cable keeper

If you love to be plugged in, but you hate the tangle of cables on your desk or nightstand, you will love the Cable Wrangler ($19.99). Created by Austin-cool Silk, makers of a variety of unique smartphone cases, wallets and accessories, this upholstered magnetic mound will hold her cables with a satisfying “click.” For non-metal cables, the holder features tiny metal collars to place around the necks of those pesky errant cables.

Get your headset in the game

Get into the game with the Audio Technica ATH-PG1 ($129), a headset for serious gamers with immersive audio that makes you feel inside the action. The 44 mm drivers provide powerful, lively sound specially tuned to accentuate all the sonic detail of the gaming environment. The closed-back, lightweight headset stays on snuggly with complete comfort, allowing extended play. The ATH-PG1 also comes equipped with a flexible, 6″ boom microphone for live-sounding in-game voice communication with other gamers, or you can use the headset for everyday media listening, and even for calls and controlling audio and video on smartphones and other portable devices. Compatible with PS4, iPad, iPhone, laptops, PCs, and other gaming devices with standard 3.5mm TRRS connector.

Eh I?

If the new era of tech has got you thinking, then The Fourth Age (Atria Books, $23.25 in hardcover, Amazon), Byron Reese’s thoughtful new book about smart robots, conscious computers and the future of humanity will give you some virtually real intelligence to ponder. Reese, the CEO and publisher of the technology research company Gigaom, offers this essential reading for anyone who enjoys probing the deeper questions about how tech has revolutionized our society and our very selves. The Fourth Age will make you wonder, and it will make you smarter for your next dinner party convo, or online chat.

Hit the Hi-Fi Bottle

Remember the boom boxes of yesteryore, balanced on a shoulder and pumping out tunes people could hear a block away? The go-anywhere compact bottle-sized BoomBottle MM ($129.99) has captured that grand, satisfying surround-sound acoustics of the famed traveling stereo with its two 12W speakers and two 45mm passive radiators, providing a full-range of crisp highs and deep bass tones, all situated in an IP67 rated dust and waterproof enclosure. This rugged, waterproof wireless speaker can travel anywhere, and it even has a MagicMount magnetic base to keep it stuck to metal surfaces. Available at Costco and other retailers.

What’s old is new again

Kids of all ages will enjoy a trip in the way-back machine via Bandai Namco Flashback Blast ($18.88, Walmart). This collection of old-school classics, such as Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Galaga, Galaxian, Mappy, Sky Kid The Tower of Druaga and Xevious, will take you back to when video games were simple and pixelated. The game set includes a wireless controller and HDMI dongle that easily connects wirelessly to your HD TV, for hours of timeless fun.

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It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas


Moodo smart-release fragrance diffuser spruces up your home, apartment, or office

Add some atmosphere to your holidays with Moodo, the first smart-home aroma diffuser. This room-freshening device sends scents into air with the touch of a button, using an app on your phone, or on the device itself. You can even link it to Alexa or Google Home and control the fragrance with voice commands. The small plug-in warmer device contains cubbies to drop in four pod-like capsules of fragrance, like Floral Musk, Spice Market or Eucalyptus Nights.

The capsules come in four-pod collections of complementary scents for mixing, for up to 400 combinations. Using the app, you can blend the fragrances to the scent you like, and you can turn up or down the intensity of the fragrance to suit your senses.

You can customize your fragrance mix, or you can use pre-set blends such as Alpine Wood or Holiday Spirit, which releases more of some scents and less of others to give just the right aroma you want. The diffuser can be left on all day or only when you want fragrance; and the scents are safe and clean-releasing, without any residue on furnishings.


For the holidays, the Winter Scent package contains Xmas Cookies, Xmas Tree, Snow Angels and Fireplace capsules. So even if you have an eco-tree (fake), you can pump up Xmas Tree for a journey to a Canadian Forest in winter, with the soothing scent of Fir needle, Fir balsam and Cedar tree oil.

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The ultimate Mother’s Day gift guide for every kind of mom


Moms who love adventure, tech, fashion or beauty will love these awesome Mother’s Day gifts

Full Steam a-dress

Whether it’s a big day at work, date night with Dad, or off for a vacay, Mom always wants to look her dapper best. The lightweight JOY 900-Watt Supreme Steam Go Mini Steamer ($19.95 at makes it easy to remove wrinkles from her shirts, slacks and dresses, at home or wherever she goes. The included zippered bag is perfect for storing it in a closet, car or suitcase.

Foot forward

Start off Mom’s day with positive vibes, from head to toe, starting with her feet.  Notes To Self socks are emblazed with affirming messages like, “I am a Great Mom,” and, “I am Amazing,” and the special Mom gift set ($32.98 for 2 pairs) comes in a pink heart-shaped gift box tied with a satin ribbon.  The ankle-height athletic socks are high-quality cotton-blend with a reinforced soft cuff, breathable mesh top and extra cushioning arch support.

She’s in charge

Mom’s smartphone is her lifeline for work, coordinating kids’ activities, shopping, staying in touch on social media, and everything else she does, so help her keep it charged and ready with the MagicMount Pro Home/Office ($69.99, This stylish stand and wireless magnetic charger mounts at home or the office on a desk or other surface with a stickGRIP suction base and uses Qi wireless charging technology, ideal for the new iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X, so Mom never has to search for and fumble with charger cables. It also features a Optional Apple Watch® Charging Mount that works with lightning charging cable.

A bed for all seasons

Let Mom sleep in on her special day, snuggled in a luxurious Bedgear ensemble. Bedgear Performance Pillows ($99.99 – $199.99) are dreamy clouds of comfort that can be individually personalized for different sleeping positions and body types using a Pillow ID app. Close to her skin, Mom will relish the cool, silky sensation of Ver-Tex Performance Sheets (starting at $299.99), made of a hi-tech quick-dry fabric blend that regulates temperature on the sleeping surface. 


To complete Mom’s performance sleeping ensemble,  top it off with a Ver-Tex Medium Warmth Climacore Blanket ($299.99), a cool-to-the-touch, all-season top layer that promotes air flow and dissipates body heat, keeping mom cozy and cool all night long.

See Jane run

Mom works hard, and works out hard, so get her performance exercise apparel that can keep up with her. Endeavor Athletic’s premier women’s Run Short ($58) feature a handy pocket, four-way-stretch fabric panels, moisture wicking technology, and built-in micro-mesh briefs that eliminate the need for an under layer and allow for free movement. Whether she’s training for a quick 5k or an ultra-marathon, these women’s running shorts will help her perform her best.

Get dressed

One dress cannot be everything for everyone, or can it? In the Nuu-Muu ($78-$88), Mom will be suited up for just about anything she’s game for. This flattering and functional slip-on dress comes in an assortment of styles that fit a variety of body types, and its comfortable stretch fabric will keep Mom comfortable no matter what’s she’s doing, from shopping and lunching, to exercise or a walk on the beach. With so many patterns, Mom could have a closet full of these versatile jumpers and wear a different one every day of the month; and if the weather is too chilly for going sleeveless, she can always pull over a Nuu-Muu layering Tee ($62) for warmth that exudes coolness.



Sleeping in luxury

For the traveling mom, give her a luxury sleep experience on the road, with a Brave Era Travel Sheet. This compact and light-weight, machine-washable 100-percent mulberry silk bed liner folds as compact as an iPhone to fit into a small suitcase or even a purse. Mom can carry it along on her adventures and sleep comfortably, whether she is in a hotel room or on a cot at the airport, knowing that the layer of fabric between her and her sleeping surface is clean and fresh. Moms’ Day sale priced at $79.99.

Good hair day

When Mom hits the road, she can bring her own salon with her, with the HSI Professional Travel Styling Kit ($79.99). It includes a Glider Mini flat iron, Groover Mini curling iron, and Dryonizer Mini blowdryer and two airflow nozzles and a hairstyling clip. With all these accoutrements, mom can have straight hair during the day and fun curls that night and rock any look for her vacation photos.



Glam ma’am

One mom who has been rockin’ it for four decades as a professional model, and making it look easy, Christie Brinkley, graciously has made her own collection of cosmetics available to make women of all ages look great, without a lot of fuss. As an encore to her line of skincare products, Christie Brinkley Authentic Beauty provides high-quality yet affordable beauty basics in wearable shades that streamline every beauty routine. Perfect for Mother’s Day, the packaging is a feminine and elegant reflective rose gold that will even make mom’s vanity counter look lovely. From $14 to $49.

She wears the pants

Outdoorsy moms can ditch their fancy pants and slip on some comfortable yet rugged Mountain Khakis Teton Crest pants ($79.95). Made for a life lived untucked, these durable pants for adventurers are guaranteed to fit. With styling for fit and function, mom will be ready for whatever the great outdoors can throw at her, and she will look good doing it.

Wonder water

mom likes to stay hydrated for good health, but sometimes water can just be boring, unless she has Cirkul. This cool new concept in flavored water includes a special dispenser bottle with a lid featuring a flavor cartridge. Mom can dial up the intensity of flavor she wants, or she can drink the water straight up, to suit her taste. The cartridges come delivered each month to her doorstep through a subscription program, with a pack of new flavors each month. Because the bottle is reusable, mom can be proud to do her part to save the planet and eschewing disposable plastic bottles. $27 for 8 cartridges per month.

Accessory to style

If mom loves to decorate and surround herself with beautiful things, accessories her with fashionable and functional décor items like a Mermaid Blue Chenille Throw Blanket ($20.99) that she can cuddle up with on the couch watching her favorite show, or a Eucalyptus Leaves Cobblestone Candle ($9.99) she can light up to relax with some mood lighting and aromatherapy. Dress up her dresser with a 2-Tier Jewelry Stand ($14.99) that displays her bobbles and adds a little bling to her décor. All from Kirkland’s

Pretty in pink

She loves her hair to look fabulous, even in high humidity, and with hot-pink-packaged Color Correct Frizz Control system, Mom can smooth her locks and look lovely and smoldering all summer long. CrazySmooth Anti-Frizz Shampoo ($39.00) features a 100-percent vegan proprietary blend of exclusive oils including Camellia Oil from Japan and Abyssinian Oil from Africa, with seaweed and shea butter, to instantly smooth unruly frizz. CrazySmooth Anti-Frizz Condition ($39.00) leaves hair vibrant, glossy, and smooth-as-silk while nourishing, detangling and defending hair with color and heat protection. CrazySmooth Anti-Frizz Treatment Masque ($48.00) mends and deeply moisturizes hair with a blend including soybean lipids, seaweed and shea butter, making hair instantly looks up to 10 years younger. RadicallySmooth Anti-Frizz Serum ($28.00) instantly smoothes for long-lasting, frizz-free style with full spectrum UVA/UVB color and heat protection. Available at

Well rounded

Give Mom the tools for success, starting with her hair brush. The Ostia Collection’s Round Copper Brush ($24-28) is has a pure copper core that retains and distributes heat evenly for a smoother and healthier finish to Mom’s style. The extra-long Tourmaline bristles and boar strip work together to create the perfect tension for styling. For a static-free styling, she can spray on Ostia Collection 3-in-1 Mist ($18) that smooths and adds shine while hydrating heat-styled hair.

She brings home the bacon, and fries it up in …

The kitchen is Mom’s domain, so give her cookware worthy of her Highness, with the Swiss Diamond XD Nonstick Cookware collection, dubbed the Rolls Royce of cookware.  The XD-double-coated Swiss Diamond Fry Pan Duo ($189.95) features a 9.5-inch and 11-inch frying pans that make the perfect pair for everyday cooking, from a succulent steak to a simple cheese omelet. The extra-thick, cast aluminum body and PFOA-free XD coating, reinforced with real diamonds and a rivet-free cooking surface, offer years of trouble-free cooking, maximum protection against bacteria build up and easy clean-up. The ergonomic handles are designed to fit comfortably in Mom’s hands and are engineered to stay cool on the stovetop. Additionally, both pans are oven safe up to 500°F (260°C).

Out in style

Active Moms need performance clothes that can keep up with them. Whether she’s out shopping or relaxing round the campfire, Craghoppers has an outfit for that, like Insect Shield Luna Tights ($48), the agile travel and adventure leggings that freedom of movement, while providing UPF 50+ sun protection and InsectShield insect-repellent fabric coverage from waist to ankle; or the all-purpose classic Kiwi Long-Sleeve Shirt ($36), a easy wash-and-wear quick-dry poly-cotton shirt with UPF 40+, and NosiDefence insect bite-proof construction to keep off the skeeters and other bugs on the trail.

Wired for sound

Tech savvy audiophile moms love themselves some wireless earbuds, but tangled lines or low- or dead-batteries are a bummer.  With myCharge’s PowerGear Sound ($24.99) Mom will always be charged up and ready to listen to her favorite music or podcast for her daily workout, traveling and anytime she needs to turn on and tune out. This portable protective charging earbud case supplies up to 14x extra battery life and is compatible with Powerbeats 2, Powerbeats 3 and most other Bluetooth earbuds.

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Artificial Intelligence Just Might Save the World


AI is not just a sci-fi movie plotline, it could be the future of healthcare, among other things

The words “artificial intelligence” conjure up fear in many people. We’ve all seen the science fiction movies, where the robots develop minds of their own, and then turn on their human creators. While even in this writer’s lifetime, we have seen the advent of many technologies that could never have even been dreamt of decades ago, still, this idea of a rogue robot acting on its own will is as far from reality as unicorns.

Visionaries like Blake Rubin have been clearing the bad name Hollywood has given artificial intelligence, and new fantasies about robots have evolved. These imaginings include machines that cannot just vacuum the floors or do the menial chores that humans dislike, but also crunch data in ways that the human mind and even present-day computers could not their hard drives around.

These computations are not just theoretical mathematic equations like those that scientists spend years trying to decipher — though those types of problems could easily be marked off the “to-do list” of AI machines, the analysis that AI promises could be world changing in innumerable ways.

For starters, AI holds the potential for curing disease. This is not one of those overstated, sensational assertions of hyperbole that pharmaceutical companies or research institutes make and then must temper with disclaimers that the findings are speculative or based on insufficient numbers of study subjects; this is logical projection based on the actual state of AI today.

In May 2018, the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program will embark on a health data collection effort involving more than 1 million participants in the United States who volunteer to input their health data, including genomics, health history, electronic medical records, and lifestyle information, into a massive database that will be available for researchers globally.

This data will comprise the largest health database in history. The studies and possibilities that this data mine represents is mind-boggling. Instead of researchers, doctors and other healthcare practitioners treating diseases based on generalities, eventually they could manage disease treatment based on an individual’s biographic makeup. The results of this effort promise nothing short of being astounding.

The idea of such enormous data sets leads one to wonder how possibly this much big data could be stored, accessed and made useful, and that is where machine learning comes into play. Vibrent Health, the creators of the platform upon which the All of Us study is built have utilized cutting-edge artificial intelligence that learns and sharpens its analytical abilities with each piece of data it ingests.

Just like with humans, but at a much faster rate and with many times more complex data sets than a human mind can handle, artificial intelligence learns about study participants, and each time they or another participants enters data, the app draws correlations, tests theories, streamlines less useful data and offers conclusions. Using parameters programmed into the app, it identifies the most valuable discoveries and imparts them on its human custodians.

This is only one example of how artificial intelligence is not just benign but benevolent. While many decry how technology has robbed society of its humanity, in this case, technology just may save it.

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SciFest in DC brings STEM to life for future innovators of all ages


Free expo of world’s leading STEM organizations inspires and educates youth, teaching through hands-on experience


The 5th USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo in Washington DC was an incredible event, packed with more than 3,000 hands-on exhibits, attracting more than 350,000 people over the weekend of April 7-8. The Walter E. Washington Convention Center was packed to the rafters with budding explorers, adventures, scientists, and other proud geeks – the rock stars of the next generation, jockeying for a front-row view of the demos, experiments, and exhibits featuring the world’s leading scientific and engineering societies, universities, government agencies, high-tech corporations and STEM organizations.

It was a good thing and a bad thing that the event was free. No one can argue that access to STEM education is essential to attracting the best minds from all walks of life, regardless of economic ability; so in that respect, the fact that anyone and everyone could go to the Sci Fest was awesome. The downside of this is that it is hard to predict how many bodies will show up when there are no ticket sales; hence, the exhibit halls were crowded to capacity, which ultimately limited the ability of anyone and everyone to get access to the exhibits.

Despite the shoulder to shoulder mobs, we made our way through to experience in a number of the participatory exhibits. My son and his bestie were particularly engaged by the Razor USA demo of the latest Razor Hovertrax self-balancing hover board and Razor’s new Turbo Jetts, with a miniature powertrain and LED light-up wheels powered by an integral generator.

In Razor’s case, it was more of a feet-on demonstration, where the exhibitor allowed my son one foot on the Hovertrax to test out its self-balancing technology, eliciting a genuine, “Wow,” followed by, “I want one!” At least in the case of Razor, it is actually possible for my son to own and master such a machine, whereas getting to ride in the stealth helicopter on display by Lockheed Martin was a bit more pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

Other interactive exhibits included robots and drones that attendees could control and run through obstacle courses or execute tasks. There were many opportunities for kids to conduct experiments with electricity – with safe supervision – kinetic motion and other forces that produce energy, and to learn about chemical interactions and their implications in all matter of uses, from medicinal and nutritional to industrial and agricultural.

While the multiple floors and seemingly endless exhibit halls presented an overwhelmingly exhaustive array of exhibits, in a few hours we were able to partake in and observe enough of the attractions to inspire and stimulate the minds of two curious boys, who walked away from this festival excitedly chattering about how they would create and build their own inventions one day, and that, is exactly what this festival is all about.

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