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"switterbug" Betsey Van Horn RSS Feed (Austin, Texas)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

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Lumsing® Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker Splash-proof & Shock-proof & Dust-proof with Microphone Rechargeable Battery up to 8 Hours Playtime
Lumsing® Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker Splash-proof & Shock-proof & Dust-proof with Microphone Rechargeable Battery up to 8 Hours Playtime
Offered by ATC LLC
Price: $69.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good gift idea, November 7, 2014
Portable Bluetooth speakers are like a cottage industry now, and they come in all shapes and sizes, with bells and whistles to attract customers. Very few of them hit the 5-star mark for me, as it is difficult to create a clear and distinct separation and clarity of sound. I give the Lumsing 5 stars for eye appeal, shaped as it is like an ice chest, which reminds me that it is waterproof! It has a nifty carabiner that also functions as a handle, and the rubber grip of the device itself is texturally pleasing to the touch and grip. There's some weight to this (compared to some of the featherweight ones) speaker, and it is solid. It paired easily with my iPhone, iPad, and iPod.

The sound is decent, but not outstanding. You can turn it up fairly loud, but there is that ever-so-slight muffle that is typical to most of these inexpensive devices. I took it on a picnic on a muggy Austin day, and it held up well through the humidity. I haven't exposed it to rain or immersed it in water, but it does advertise as waterproof. I selected the lime green one to sample for an honest appraisal, and it looks even more attractive in person than online. It is handy for outdoor use, and would make a nifty gift idea for Xmas or Chanukah.


FORDIGI® APPLE CERTIFIED Extra Long (10 Feet) USB Sync and Charging Lightning Cable for iPhone 5/5S/5C, iPad 4, iPad Air, iPad Mini (10 Feet Apple Certified - Black)
FORDIGI® APPLE CERTIFIED Extra Long (10 Feet) USB Sync and Charging Lightning Cable for iPhone 5/5S/5C, iPad 4, iPad Air, iPad Mini (10 Feet Apple Certified - Black)
Offered by Amazing Digital Store
Price: $14.99
2 used & new from $14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent product, November 7, 2014
I own several pairs of FORDIGI lightning cables, so I jumped at the chance to sample another one for review. These are thick and sturdy cables, which hold up well. Unlike the more delicate Apple brand, these are tough and healthy at the joint (the place most likely to fray). Although they take up more room and weight (than the Apple brand) when wrapped for travel, it does come with a velcro fastener, and it packs nicely.

FORDIGI is Apple-certified, so it is safe for all your mobile devices. It is one of my select brand of lightning chargers, and at 10 feet, I can plug it in at my bedside table and have plenty of slack room . I also like it in the car, where the constant plugging and unplugging, together with extremes of temperature, doesn't degrade it. A confident thumbs up.


Ispeed Microfiber Ultra-compact Ultra Absorbent Quick-drying Towel
Ispeed Microfiber Ultra-compact Ultra Absorbent Quick-drying Towel
Offered by Outlet Warehouse
Price: $2.00 - $15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My new favorite hair towel, November 4, 2014
I have very long, thick hair, and I need a towel that absorbs well and dries fast, especially for when I travel. This towel is the best of its kind. After wrapping my hair up after washing, I kept it in the towel for about 7 minutes. By the time I took my hair down, I'd say that about 60% of the moisture had absorbed into the towel. This one is 52' x 32" (in ash grey)--enough real estate to wrap up all my hair and tuck the excess under so it will stay fastened.

We will be traveling back to Europe in 2015, and I need a towel that will not only absorb a lot of the water in my hair, and fast, but one I can pack away dry soon afterwards. We travel from city to city, country to country, on a 5 week trip. I have to bring a towel that folds up small and flat, and dries quickly. In an hour, this towel was completely dry. It takes up almost no room in my suitcase.

I agreed to try this in exchange for an honest appraisal, as I needed one that could fit all my hair (hard to find). If I were to make one suggestion, I would recommend that the makers create a loop on one of the corners for easy hanging.


Juno Power Konnect Kolor - Portable Battery Charger 12,000mAh with Dual Output 5V 1A/2.1A Flashlight and Intelligent LCD Screen Backup Charger for iPhone 6 Plus, 6, 5S, 5C, 5, 4S; Samsung Galaxy S3, S4; Motorola Moto X; HTC One; Nexus 4; and More; Rechargeable Battery, Power Bank and Cell Phone Charger
Juno Power Konnect Kolor - Portable Battery Charger 12,000mAh with Dual Output 5V 1A/2.1A Flashlight and Intelligent LCD Screen Backup Charger for iPhone 6 Plus, 6, 5S, 5C, 5, 4S; Samsung Galaxy S3, S4; Motorola Moto X; HTC One; Nexus 4; and More; Rechargeable Battery, Power Bank and Cell Phone Charger
Offered by JUNO POWER
Price: $34.99
3 used & new from $27.46

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for the traveler, November 4, 2014
I've been offered many of these mobile charging devices in exchange for an honest appraisal, but the Juno-Power Konnect Kolor battery has surpassed all of them. With 12,000mAh of power, this device will charge your phone several times and charge your tablet twice. I really like the LED readout that tells you how much juice remains, also. My other devices use dots that represent 25% each, which does not really give a precise representation of how much charging power you have left. The Juno has a built-in flashlight, too, which is functional in a pinch, but too small for use in large areas, or for walking in pitch dark areas.

I let my iPad drain to 10 percent and the Juno charged it to 100% in just under 4 hours, with 53 percent left on the Juno. This would imply that I could charge my phone an additional 5 times before exhausting this device. It charged my phone quickly from 5% to 100% in about an hour, and used only 9% of the Juno power.

This device is essential in times that you are away from a power source. I've used mine while camping and it powered my iPod Touch for 3 days. And we could watch movies on the iPad and re-charge it again for longer use. We plan on taking the Juno on our five-week trip to Europe next year, as I am confident that this device will save the day. I really wish we'd had it on our last trip, when the GPS and constant camera use on my iPhone completely drained my phone battery while we were sight-seeing. Although this isn't as light as some of the smaller charging devices, it is compact enough, and I prefer to carry more mAh on these full, 12 hour touring days. Thumbs up to Juno for providing a classy and superbly functioning portable battery charger.


Kocaso SX9730 SX9730GUN 9.7-Inch 16 GB Tablet
Kocaso SX9730 SX9730GUN 9.7-Inch 16 GB Tablet
Offered by M M Electronics
Price: $249.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice alternative that won't break the bank, November 4, 2014
When I received the offer to sample the Kosaso 9.7 inch tablet in exchange for an honest review, I was intrigued enough to bite. I own an iPad, but have often wondered what other tablets were like. I was pleasantly surprised with the Kocaso, which deserves its own niche of worthwhile, low-cost tablets. No, it doesn't have the elegance of an iPad, but it will get you where you want to go with it.

The Kocaso came fully charged right out of the box. Although the user's manual is fairly complete, I wanted to test the device's intuitive qualities in setting it up. I'm pleased to report that set-up was a breeze. Never having used an Android device, I assumed there would be a frustrating learning curve. This was not the case, although it is something to keep in mind for Apple users. It powered up easily, albeit not as quickly as an iPad, but respectably enough. It comes with quite a lot of apps, including Office (a trial), email, various games, browsers, and Google apps. The Kocaso has a dual camera function, that while pretty good (5mp), the resolution is not as good as my iPad 4th gen.

The Wi-Fi connection has a strong signal on the Kocaso and loads pages quickly while surfing/browsing. It also played YouTube videos seamlessly. The built-in speaker sounded tinny and unimpressive, but it paired easily via blue-tooth to my speakers, and sounded quite good. I let a friend's 10 year old play Minecraft on this tablet, and it met with his approval. Email was easy to set up, and most things I can do on my iPad, I can do on this Kocaso.

While the graphics are very good on this tablet, the box boasts of a Retina Display. I have no complaints about the graphics, but it is hardly what I would expect with a Retina Display claim, which is what my iPad possesses. I think Kocaso used the term too loosely. Moreover, the battery drains very quickly, which is a bit annoying.

A few specs include: 9.7 inch screen, Quad core processor up to 1.2ghz, 16GB ROM memory, 2GB ram Dual camera function, 3mp front, 5mp back, Blue-tooth 4.0, OS: Android 4.4, 5 hour battery time, Multi-touch screen.

Overall, I am satisfied with the Kocaso tablet. For this price, it has surpassed my expectations. As I stated previously, this is not an iPad, but it does allow me to do most things at a fraction of the price. The battery life is disappointing, and the specs listed on the box are not as exceptional as the hype claims. It performs well, and is an inexpensive alternative, as long as you don't expect it to perform like a high-priced tablet.

In the box: Tablet, User's Manual, USB cable, Earphone, Power Adaptor, OTG cable
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 16, 2014 3:49 PM PST


Hiding in Plain Sight: A Novel
Hiding in Plain Sight: A Novel
by Nuruddin Farah
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.93
71 used & new from $10.37

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Family and loss, October 31, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The tension between geopolitical landscapes and the promise of a universal domestic drama piqued my interest in reading this book. The premise is intriguing: a beautiful, statuesque photographer, Bella, daughter of a Somali mother and Italian father, is informed that her half-brother, Aar, (on mother's side) has been killed by terrorists during his work with the UN. Aar lived in Nairobi with his teenaged daughter and son; the children's mother, Valerie, abandoned them years ago to pursue a relationship with another woman. Now she is back in the picture with a lawyer, ready to take up a fight for her children. Bella leaves Rome, where she has been living for many years, to move to Kenya and take care of the children in Nairobi (per Aar's wishes) and deal with Valerie. Growing up, she was half in love with Aar herself.

There's a flat, stilted style to Farah's narrative that removed any feeling of immediacy. It's a mix of declarative sentences and static details, which is occasionally heavy-handed. There's the sense that passages are being filtered through the author's socio-political lens before he shares it with the reader. I'm not quite sure if Farah thought that we wouldn't grasp enough of the nuances, or whether he wasn't able to step aside and let us come to our own conclusions. Too often, he justified a character's action or thought, which dispatched me out of the story and into the author's agenda. Farah also seemed to be edifying his readers about Somali customs and perceptions toward homosexuality, genital mutilation, and female assertion, but instead of it coming organically from the story, it had the touch of pulpit sermonizing.

As for the characters, they never truly came alive for me. The author had a ripe opportunity to illustrate inner conflict in Bella, who abruptly dropped her carefree, single lifestyle in Italy to mother two teens in Nairobi. And, not a look back! It isn't just her altruism that is hard to swallow, but her too-immediate adjustment. She takes on the nurturing, mothering role so seamlessly that it is hard to believe that she was living in a fast-paced, narcissistic world of fame, money, and beautiful people. Bella is single, with several lovers and a lucrative career, but has zero qualms about her new obligation. As the reader, I did not see Bella struggling to adapt. She was also the ultimate diplomat in every situation. The few times that she was blunt to people, they were portrayed to deserve it.

Aar is just the vehicle for the story, and possessed one-dimensional attributes. The victim of terrorism, his portrait was sympathetic but superficial. Like Bella, he was morally and ethically above reproach. Valerie, the ex- and the putative villain, left little to the imagination. What is even more irritating is that the potentially complicated situation gets wrapped up too conveniently in a bow. Valerie's lover, ethnically Indian but Ugandan-born Padmini, is largely a straw for the author's facile handling of Valerie.

The most complex characters were the children-- Salif, the eldest child, and his sister, Dahaba. Farah showed subtle insight into the issues of teenagers facing tragedy. Their mixed feelings toward their mother were often realistic, although Farah didn't mine it sufficiently. Their cycling emotions, although not adequately explored, were realistic.

It took me a few weeks to complete this novel, as it didn't compel me to keep turning the pages. Besides the stilted style, there were a lot of unnecessary details, such as mundane cooking and other domestic chores, that put the brakes on the story. Moreover, Farah periodically put too repetitive a point on things. For example, it was made clear early on that Aar and his children respected the Muslim culture but were not strict with custom; the children ate bacon, for one thing. But there was too much zeroing in on cooking bacon. It appeared that the author wanted to keep reminding us, in case we forgot!

The story, which took up 339 pages, could have been shaved down to a 90-page novella. If you eliminated the excess minutiae, the result would have had more momentum, if not more intrigue. As it was, there really wasn't a lot of scope in this story of a disrupted, blended family.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 31, 2014 8:10 PM PDT


Belkin MIXIT Home Charger with Lightning Cable for iPhone 6 / 6 Plus, iPhone 5/ 5S / 5c, iPad 4th Gen and iPad mini (2.1 Amp / 10 Watt), Black
Belkin MIXIT Home Charger with Lightning Cable for iPhone 6 / 6 Plus, iPhone 5/ 5S / 5c, iPad 4th Gen and iPad mini (2.1 Amp / 10 Watt), Black
Offered by Tech1
Price: $22.10
5 used & new from $22.10

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawless performance, October 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've always trusted Belkin's tech products (I used to own a Belkin router), and I selected this because I had previously bought this one for my husband, because he needed a hardy one. After 8 months, it is still in perfect shape. Although it says "home" charger (and not travel), it is very useful for transport. Although the prongs don't fold in, the oval-ish charger is small enough to carry. What I like about the actual cord--vs Apple's--is that it is flat and strong, thicker than the Apple charger but wraps easily. My Apple cords shred after a few months of transport, but the Belkin's design is sturdy and holds up month after month.

I use this for my iPhone 5 (I have been waiting 5 weeks for my pre-ordered 6 plus!), but my husband uses it for his 6, and it charges it quite rapidly (I am sure that some of this is inherent to iPhone itself). This is not what one would use for an iPad, and it doesn't purport to charge one, either, unless it is an iPad mini. It is perfect for my iPod 5th gen, however. I have also used the wall plug-in part with my Kindle/Kindle charger cord, and it works smoothly and charges quickly.

Oddly, it doesn't say "Apple Certified," which surprises me. The non-Apple certified charges I have owned stopped working unless the Apple device is shut off (but, causes the device to dangerously heat up). This does not have any problems associated with non-Apple certified products, and it performs flawlessly.


Roxio Toast Titanium 12 Mac
Roxio Toast Titanium 12 Mac
Price: Click here to see our price
36 used & new from $80.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Restored my faith in Toast, October 22, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As a customer for many years, Toast has always served all of my music and video conversion and burning needs. However, I didn't see much difference from versions 8 through 10, so I became a bit cynical about future upgrades. I had both 8 and 10 installed so I could work with them simultaneously while using two optical drives, and both versions served my needs. I skipped version 11 because I read of some issues with bugs and stability problems. Toast 11 was rated as poor quality by reviewers overall. But Toast 12 renewed my faith in Toast.

Toast 12 opens up new features that weren't previously accessible unless I used other applications. New Toast features (that are new to me) include a live video screen capture that allows you to record directly from your screen, with voice-over; editing options; and save and share features. With version 12 you can get video from almost anywhere--the web, portable devices, a camcorder, or discs. Save streaming video from your favorite sites, and burn to disc. Other features allow me to burn HD videos on a standard DVD that will play back on Blu-Ray disc players requiring no plug-ins. Additional templates for video conversion are included in this version.

Historically, Toast has been my go-to Mac burning software for copying CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. Version 12 seems to accomplish this much faster than my previous versions. Encrypting takes a fraction of the time. Large video files and discs can be copied to a regular DVD using the Fit-to-DVD feature. I admit that I only use a fraction of the video editing features, so I cannot speak in detail about all of them, only that many new options for editing and customizing video are offered in this version. Toast 12 also allows you to easily post video directly to YouTube, FaceBook, or Vimeo in one step. This version is a very welcome release, and I enjoy exploring the new features. I no longer see a need to use my previous versions. For all the new upgrades, Toast will continue to get my business and my loyalty.


The Remedy for Love: A Novel
The Remedy for Love: A Novel
by Bill Roorbach
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.30
72 used & new from $5.96

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It has its moments, October 15, 2014
I was drawn to this novel, my first Bill Roorbach, by the quirkiness of the plot blurb. I suspected that it would be a character study more than anything else, and in that I was correct. Eric, a small-town lawyer in Maine, finds himself half-reluctantly helping a vagrant-looking young woman after he has an odd experience with her in a grocery store. He follows her out to a rural and isolated cabin in the woods, as the snowstorm of the century (or ever!) begins to pile it higher and deeper. He intends to be the gentleman that he is and help this raggedy, dirty, disheveled woman; yet, the more he reaches out to Danielle, the more it is evident that he is a needy case, also.

Danielle's flinty, nihilistic voice is a compelling contrast to Eric's more pathetic and tender one. He is hanging on to an obviously finished marriage with a denial and hope that is transparently futile (to everyone but him), and also reaching out to Danielle for friendship. However, Danielle is guarded at best, and generally caustic, pushing Eric away with her volatile behavior and harsh words. Eric's life is like an open book, while Danielle's is a closed and secret history, revealing itself gradually toward its obliquely foreshadowed but shocking conclusion. The auguring serves to authenticate the climax without ruining it.

In the meantime, as the storm gets more severe, the cabin they are sequestered in starts to groan, hiss, creak, and croak. (Eric's car, with his cell phone in it, has been towed from where he parked it--there's a story behind that.) As the novel progresses, the cabin itself becomes like a character, a vulnerable one victimized by the snowstorm. Roorbach mixes levity with horror as Eric and Danielle's lives become increasingly imperiled. Their opposite natures are inclined to avalanche, until it becomes clear that they are going to have to establish a sense of working together in order to survive.

Roorbach creates penetrating and realistic characters. The theme of survival is both literal and metaphorical, as Eric and Danielle struggle to maintain safety and life, while any higher purposes that they possess are disclosed and put to a tense and high-wire test. At times, I wanted the plot to move along more swiftly, especially when more predictable events occurred and threatened to stagnate the story. Also, my engagement with these two stunted adults sometimes bordered on my own groans and creaks. Once the reader's insight reaches a peak, there's a certain amount of impatience, waiting for the characters' get-a-clue to kick in. Her "strange retractable beauty" and his tendency toward masochism periodically stretched my own tolerance limits. This is not an unforgettable book, but it has its moments.
3.75 stars
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 29, 2014 7:25 AM PDT


Bose CineMate 15 Home Theater Speaker System, Black
Bose CineMate 15 Home Theater Speaker System, Black
Price: $599.00
13 used & new from $599.00

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incomparable sound!, October 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The sound that the Bose CiniMate Home Theater System puts out is incredible. I own a superb stereo system that sounds solid with music, movies, and TV shows, but in a large room, sometimes the Home Theater experience seemed to be lacking distinction and clarity in sound. TV speakers don't offer a satisfying bass or rich, rounded sound. Enter Bose CiniMate Home Theater system, and the sound lights up, and that's my apt mixed metaphor

I'll never understand how Bose managed to achieve this lucidity and penetrability of sound! The sound-bar is only the size of a ruler, but delivers resonance, like a balanced sound-stage that can fill an entire room. The sub-woofer delivers a deep bass that can easily be adjusted to meet your aesthetic preferences. The set-up was a breeze, using one cable from your TV to the speaker. Several connection options are offered; you can connect via an optical cable (digital), a coaxial cable (digital), or by RCA plugs (analog, but stereo.) My TV is older, and does not have an optical plug input, but I was able to use a coaxial cable (not included), to connect. (Optical and RCA cables are included). Other options are explained for connecting to your cable box or DVD player to meet the limits or choices of your television.

The Universal remote is all-inclusive, and pairs easily with other components. I paired my Blu-Ray player and my cable/SAT in a snap, using the included codes listed by manufacturer. I am having a problem getting the correct TV code, as the included code does not work for my seven-year-old TV. Codes obtained on-line have not worked either, so I do not blame Bose. The remote is easy to use, and switching devices is seamless.

The Bose CineMate 15 offers me everything I seek in a system that connects directly to the TV. The performance is superlative and provides a high-end experience in music. Movies are crisp in both actions scenes and dialog, and every nuance can be distinguished. I cannot imagine a lesser priced unit sounding any better. Auden said that "music is the best means we have of digesting time." Well, don't waste your time or money on an inferior system. Investing in this Bose CineMate15 is a valuable way to spend your money on the pleasures of digesting time.


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