Entries in Reviews (3)


Worth Your Time & Money #4: iPad Accessories

1. Coburns wooden stand ($20)

When the first iPad came out, I bought the Apple cover that doubled as a stand. However I found it uncomfortable to hold and with subsequent iPads I abandoned the skintight cover/stand concept and instead went with slipcases and sleeves to protect my naked iPad. One might think that this flies in the face of my previous review's comment that iPhones need protective cases, but I believe the use cases for the two devices are different enough; people don't use their iPads like they use their iPhones. You don't typically emerge out of your car with your hands full and accidentally drop your iPad on the concrete (which has happened to me with my iPhone). iPads are normally used in the home or at the office where concrete and asphalt typically don't exist so the need for a protective case isn't the same. And both at home and at work, a stand that is sturdy, convenient for both portrait and landscape use, and doesn't obstruct the screen or controls is very handy to have around.

My original stand was an $8 wooden picture frame stand from Bed Bath & Beyond. It worked pretty well, was collapsible, and would work for both portrait and landscape. But it wasn't sturdy and could fall over with a strong tap. Then I read about a Kickstarter campaign for the Coburns. From the instant I laid eyes on them, I was in love. I pledge my money, waited, and when they arrived I was not disappointed.

Made of nicely finished wood fashioned with small magnets and cutouts depending on the size of your iPad, the Coburns are a very versatile system for standing your naked iPad at various angles while also being very compact and thus convenient to travel with. The product obviously is well thought out and well designed; I would guess that the worst thing that could happen is you would lose one of the pieces, but that's the genius of putting the tiny, strong magnets into the wood to keep them together when they're not being used. There are two types of wood and three stains available from the Fine Grain website for both iPad Minis and iPad Airs. I recommend that you check them out if this fits with how you use your iPad. They are made in America if that's your thing too.

2. Dodocase Durable Sleeve for iPad Mini ($60)

There are many slipcases and sleeves for the iPad. Some are heavily padded and some are lightly padded. There are ones made of leather, plastic, and nylon and all are in various colors and styles. Previously, I used a Timbuk2 slipcase with the Velcro enclosure that was very padded and terrifically secure, but for my iPad Mini I wanted something new that was as durable as the Timbuk2, but a little more stylish and didn't have the patented loud Velcro sound when opened. That's how I came to find the Dodocase Durable Sleeve.

When I first ordered the sleeve, the original design pictured on the website did not have the leather strap that spans the opening to keep the iPad within the sleeve. The sleeve is not meant to hug the iPad that firmly, so it could slip out accidentally if not for this strap. I think it is a great addition to an already nice design.

The waxed canvas is a really nice exterior that has a good amount of grip to it when you're handling it. With use, it will show marks of wear, but unlike plastic or nylon cases, the wear adds character to the sleeve instead of making it look rundown and used. The inside is nicely padded with what's probably a medium level of padding for a sleeve. It will protect your iPad from a short drop to the carpet and will definitely save it from the common bumps and scrapes of day to day use. Like the Coburns, Dodocase products are made in the USA and there are multiple color options on Dodocase's website for both iPad Minis and iPad Airs.


Worth Your Time And Money #3: iPhone 5(S) Accessories

1. The Tavik Bumper Case

In season one of his Web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld interviewed MST3K's Joel Hodgson. At one point in the discussion, Joel pulls out his iPhone which is in a protective case. Jerry makes a snide comment about how the case ruins the look and feel of using the device. My response has always been, well that's great for Jerry Seinfeld. He can afford a new iPhone if he drops his on the sidewalk and shatters the glass. The rest of us are not so lucky. So that's why I use a Tavik bumper for my iPhone 5. I loved the original Apple bumpers for the iPhone 4 and 4s, but I guess Apple didn't want to keep making plastic frames for their phones when the iPhone 5 came out. Thankfully Tavik saw an opportunity and took it.

As it is simply a band of rubber and plastic that goes around the perimeter of the phone, it's basically exactly like the old Apple bumper but built for the 5 and 5s. Yes, it doesn't protect the back of the phone, but the back is one of the strongest parts of the phone anyway. I'd say the only drawback is that the plastic/rubber covers for the volume and power buttons take some time to wear-in unlike the Apple bumpers that were easy to press right out of the box. But that's a minor gripe.

They come in several different colors and the design provides cutouts for the Lightning connector, the headphone jack, the mute switch, and the phone's speakers.

So if you like the bumper concept, don't mind an initial wear-in period for the three buttons, and have $30 to spend, I recommend the Tavik bumper case.

2. The Kenu Airframe Car Vent Mount


No one should text and drive but sometimes you need your phone handy, especially now that Google Maps and Apple Maps can provide directions as good as the GPS devices from 10 years ago. Also, if you are using Bluetooth to listen to music, you need the phone handy to switch songs if you're as impatient with music as I am.

My two previous options were sticking the phone under my left thigh or in the empty cup holder. The thigh option always made me nervous that the phone would fall between the door and the seat, and the cup holder (if I wasn't using it for a cup) always worried me that it might have some dried or sticky goo from a previous drink that would get on the phone. So dashboard mounts were always on my mind, but I didn't want to screw in anything to mar the dashboard or stick anything semi permanent to either the dash or the windshield.

Enter the Kenu mount. A spring-loaded rubberized grip arm holds an iPhone (or other mobile) firmly in its grasp either naked or encased in most form-fitting phone cases (like the Tavik bumper from above). This open-ended aspect is one of the nice things about it.

Plus, the makers did something really cool with the design of the, for lack of a better term, "pincher" element that grips the blade of your car's vent on the back of the mount. First, it rotates sturdily 360 degrees for either horizontal or vertical blades or if you want your phone at a particular angle. But then, the pincher accommodates two widths of blade because not all cars are made the same. Put together, its a surprisingly versatile yet simply designed product.

One caveat: so you're basically putting an expensive electronic device in front of an air vent connected to a portable HVAC unit. In the summer, you don't really need to worry about cold air blowing on the back of your phone, but if you want, you can close the vent or direct the air away from the phone depending on how you position the mount and what type of vents are in your car. However, in the winter you have to be very mindful of the hot air blowing on the back of your phone. Internal sensors may shut your phone off if it gets too hot. This did actually happen to me once but when the phone cools down it resumes normal operation. That is just something that you will have to consider when installing and using the mount.

It comes in two color options; the grey rubber gripper arms remain the same between the two models, but the plastic back now comes in white along with the original black.

So for $25, the Kenu Airframe Mount is worth your time and money.


Worth Your Time & Money #2: Harry's Shaving Products


I have to believe that reviewing shaving materials has to be up there as one of the toughest to even make relevant for any other person. The number of variables are staggering between two different people let alone the entire male population of the world (or anyone else who needs to shave their face).

Off the top of my head you've got the following parameters:

  1. Physiology: Includes beard thickness, individual hair thickness, sensory quality (being able to see/feel where to shave (I'm thinking primarily of old men), skin thickness, skin elasticity, pore size (?), coagulation speed of your blood, pain tolerance (that might be more mental), and how long it has been since you last shaved (i.e., length of beard hair);

  2. Shaving technique: Includes the angle at which the razor is held, how hard it is pressed into the skin, if you only go with the grain or also against it, speed of shaving, how many times do you go over the same area, etc.;

  3. Other products used that don't include the razor or shaving cream: Do you use shaving oil before applying cream? Do you use a styptic pen afterwards to stop bleeding? Aftershave cream?; and

  4. Environmental factors: Hardness of the water used, humidity of the air at place of shaving, proper lighting, etc.

I have to believe that the shaving companies spend a lot of time and money on large trials to determine what works best for the majority of face shavers through careful analysis and observation. It can't be simple and I'm sure there's some piece of either long-form journalism out there or a documentary detailing their processes.

So with that disclaimery stuff out of the way, let's get into my own very specific findings.


First of all, I don't shave every day. I shave probably every 3-4 days unless there's some big meeting at work and I want a clean shave 1 day after already shaving. So typically my beard is more than your usual 24 hour shadow.

Previously, I had been using the Gillette Fusion Power (GFP) razor without the battery-operated vibration. I probably got 3-4 shaves out of each razor, but that was before I started using a RazorPit blade "sharpener" ($20) that I found on Amazon which did prolong the use of the blades to maybe twice as long. HOWEVER, I have to wonder about the quality of the shave from those blades as I frequently cut myself shaving with them... especially when compared to the new Harry's blades (more on that in a second).

My shaving ritual is to shave after showering, splash on some warm water, splash on some shaving oil (for a long time I used commercial shaving oils, but recently switched to the much cheaper and just as good extra virgin olive oil from the kitchen which I recommend you at least try if you don't already use an oil), and then put some Kiehl's shaving cream on top of that. With the GFPs, I'd commonly cut myself on my throat (usually near my Adam's apple) and require the use of a styptic pen afterwards before applying some aftershave cream.


So I think that Harry's system is a balance between cost and a good shave. The first blade lasted 4 shaves for me (compared to those on Razorpedia that reported 7-8), but I felt the last one wasn't as good as the first three, so let's say it lasted 3 shaves. That was over two weeks time. As I said, my beard is probably of average thickness and hardness, and I don't shave every day, so maybe I put more wear and tear on the blades than if I shaved every day.

I will say that I hardly cut myself at all during those 4 shaves and no where nearly as bad as when I had used GFP blades. I attribute that to two things:

  1. I really think Harry's shaving cream is terrific. Much better even than the more expensive Kiehl's I've been using for years.

  2. So the GFP blades have an actual hinge-like mechanism built into them that is supposed to let the razor's head bend backwards with the curve of your face as you move it along. It is supposed to give you a closer shave that way. Harry's razor heads do bend, but rather than a mechanical element, it stems from a more elastic bit of plastic instead. I imagine this cut down a lot on manufacturing costs. So while it isn't as malleable a shave head as the GFP, the firmer head of the Harry's actually results in a different experience. I actually prefer the firmness more than the GFP. With subsequent shavings, that firmness dissipates as the plastic's elasticity is worn down, and you can actually see the widening gap in the plastic on the razor head where it bends backward. It's not alarming at all, but more interesting to see how they worked that ability into the razor head using an alternate method than the spring-loaded (?) GFP approach.


According to Razorpedia, the GFP cost $3.45 per razor. The Harry's are $1.56. That means they're half the price just out of the box. That's great all by itself. That same website goes into a breakdown cost analysis per shave, but as I made clear at the start, everyone has such a varied shaving ritual and beard that I can't really trust that deep-dive kind of analysis. Basically, your own mileage may vary.
I would wager they provide a better shave than the GFPs due to fewer cuts that I've had since switching to them. The firmness of the razor head certainly changes your own movements to compensate, but maybe that's a good thing. The GFP might just have been too loose for me.

 And finally, they are delivered right to your door per the shaving schedule you choose when you sign up. They come in the regular U.S. Mail, so there's no concern about being home to receive the package. 


The one thing I do miss about the GFPs is the trimmer blade on the back of their razor head. It does such a good job of getting right under your nose and ensuring that your sideburns are straight that it is hard to beat, and unfortunately Harry's heads don't have anything like it. So I do keep an old GFP with my shaving stuff for that small bit of work, but I wouldn't discount the cost benefit and shaving quality of Harry's for it.


So in the end, I recommend giving Harry's a try. They sell a starter set with the Truman handle for only $15 (all their blades are the same; they sell two types of handle which both work with all of their blades: the Truman and Winston. The only difference between them is that the Winston is all aluminum and the Truman is basically plastic).

Harry's Truman handle in orange (one of four available colors)