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

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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 HSN.com) 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 ($79.99, scosche.com). 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 Crest Teton 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 ColorProof.com.

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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TechThought

Artificial Intelligence Just Might Save the World

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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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EducationScienceSTEMTechThought

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

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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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Internet of ThingsTech

Will the voice of the future be Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri?

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Voice-commanded devices and their apps are turning up the volume in the market, but who will get your ear?

When Apple finally entered the wireless speaker market with HomePod, which can be voice-controlled by Siri, its competitor Sonos, which now responds to voice commands via Amazon’s Alexa, took a swipe at the launch with a tongue-in-cheek playlist on Spotify, a service that the HomePod cannot access except through a workaround using other devices. While gags like this make the rivalry of these manufacturers sound like fun and games, the truth is that they are in a ruthless race to gain market share among literally dozens of new players in the space, from some you may have not yet heard of, like the TCL Xess video home hub ($499), to spin offs to the most popular devices, in different sizes and colors.

Some of these speaker systems and their attendant voice-commanded assistants are better than others, and some are simply clones.  Here’s a short list of the ones we like, and why.

HomePod is a powerful speaker and sounds amazing, but Siri has a lot of catching up to do in order to hold a candle to Alexa, and at the sticker price of $349 and its inability to work with streaming music services besides Apple Music, there’s better bets out there, unless you are simply an Apple fanatic and will have nothing else.

Sonos remains a favorite, with its first-to-market Hi-Fi Wi-Fi streaming abilities and pairing with speakers in the Sonos family, including the new single speaker silo, Sonos One ($199), with Alexa built in.

808 XL-V smart speaker is a new entrant to the Alexa-enabled speaker systems, with a design closely resembling the original Amazon Echo, though the 808 has a bit more style than the original with its fabric-like wrap, resembling a traditional Wi-Fi speaker. Using the 808 audio app, you can use voice commands to control all the smart devices in your home, like thermostat and lightbulbs, and you can access your Amazon music and book library as well as premium accounts on Spotify and other music streaming services; or you can always use the Bluetooth connection to stream audio from other Bluetooth enabled devices or hook it up devices to the aux-in jack. The 808 XL-V also has the ability to stream the same music simultaneously from another 808 XL-V, you can play the same music in every room where you have a speaker.

Of course, you can’t talk about Alexa, without talking about the Poindexter stepsister-from-another-mother, Google Assistant, originally developed for Google Home and now expanding into a number of devices, including the adorable Google Home Mini ($49).

The TicHome and TicHome Mini are two great entrants into the Google Home voice command family. These speakers have great audio quality, especially for their size, and they also come in a variety of attractive colors to spruce up your countertop, desk or wherever they sit with their compact footprint. Like Google Home, they access the massive knowledge base of Google search, so by comparison to Alexa-enabled devices, The Google Assistant-enabled devices are far superior. The one big downside is that Google Assistant is not able to access your Amazon Music account at this time, obviously because their competitor controls the behemoth Amazon enterprise, but if you subscribe to premium services on Pandora and other listening services, you won’t miss a beat.

Amazon has had to up their game with more exciting speakers to compete with all the other Alexa-enabled systems now on the market. Amazon has met the demand for variety by adding not only an assortment of devices, such as the Dot ($49), Tap ($129), featuring both wi-fi and Bluetooth capabilities, and the tablet-like Show ($229), they’ve also added colors to the scheme. Now you can choose from hues like a teal and orange to liven up your table top and blend in with your decor.

As the creator of Echo ($129), of the first-to-market voice command speaker, Amazon Alexa is still king, or queen as it were, when it comes to audio quality and responsiveness, with its Dolby-powered omni-directional seven speakers that detect voice from multiple directions around it. And because Amazon’s signature Alexa-enabled speakers were build to work with the Alexa app, they are the most seamless in performance with Alexa and experience much lower rates of error than the other systems built by third parties.

With all of these systems, there is still work to be done to perfect their interactions with voice command. Expect that for no reason at all sometimes these speakers drop off Wi-Fi, requiring a reset or other intervention, and no matter how clearly and loudly you command them, sometimes you have to repeat yourself and yell at them like they are a petulant child to get them to do something or stop doing what they’re doing. But just like our kids, once we have them, we wonder how we ever lived without them.

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GiftsInternet of ThingsLifestyleShoppingTech

Tech the halls 2018 gift guide

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Eight smart gifts of gadgets, toys and accessories for electronics lovers

Plug into fun this holiday season with these awesome devices and tech toys that will make the holidays  electric.

We will, we will Roku

Binge watchers will love the ultimate top-of-the-line streaming device, Roku Ultra, that streams high-quality HD and even 4K video with a slim design that neatly tucks into TV cabinets or looks sleek on a shelf. For those who want to lie in bed and turn up the volume on their favorite action series and not wake up their partner with every explosion or gun battle, Roku offers private listening, which allows an individual to listen with headphones connected to a jack on the Roku remote or on a smart phone using the latest Roku app. Another great feature on the Roku remote is the ability to control volume and power up and turn off a connect TV. Like other models in Roku‘s lineup, the Ultra also offers dedicated buttons to popular networks, like Netflix and Hulu. New this year to Roku is the brand’s own free channel, chock full of premium movies and shows. Roku Ultra is available for $99 at retailers nationwide.

Thinking in a vacuum

Neat freaks can take a break from constant cleaning with iRobot’s Roomba, a vaccum robot that will do the work for them so their home can have that just-vacuumed look all the time. The original and most tech-forward of the automatic vacuum brands, Roomba has developed an army of round robots designed for a variety of carpet and floor surfaces, with its most advanced units, like the wi-fi connected Roomba 980 ($899), featuring smart technology that allows Roomba to be operated and programmed using an app or with voice- command devices like Echo or Google Home. While Roomba doesn’t do windows, it’s a great helper around the house that won’t complain about chores, and with its endearing Jetson-esque robotic voice, Roomba may just become your next pet, that picks up fur instead of shedding it.

Click tap, my phone was taking a bath

For the tech enthusiastic who has everything, give them the peace of mind of a bacteria-free cell phone with phone soap ($59.95). This sanitizing unit that looks like a mini sunbed, uses UV lights to kill germs on your phone in 10 minutes. The unit features an opening to thread through a phone cable, so the phone can charge while it’s in use. Available at www.phonesoap.com.

Tic Talk

The Mobvoi TicHome Mini ($99) is a great new entrant into the works-with-Google-Assistant family. This speaker has rich audio quality, especially for its size, and this portable, compact unit comes in a variety of attractive colors to spruce up your countertop, desk, bathroom vanity (it’s splash resistant) or wherever it sits, ready to respond to your commands. Using the Google Assistant app, it can access the massive knowledge base of Google search, and can play music from a number of streaming services like Pandora. Also, the TicHome Mini can untether from its USB charging cable and run on its internal battery, either operating as truly wireless Wi-Fi streaming speaker or a Bluetooth speaker.

Own your stuff

While you cozy up in front of the TV this holiday season, save some money for your family with a TP-Link Archer CR700 Wireless Dual Band DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem Router ($159), a modem-router combination that can replace the unit that the cable service provider makes you pay to lease each month. Owning your own equipment is not only more convenient and less expensive in the long run, you will own the most advanced technology that often can perform better and faster than the no-frills devices the cable companies buy in bulk and rent to subscribers. The Archer CR7000 also features Parental and Access Control using a web management page that allows you to safeguard your network, restricting who can join and what content users may access while on it. Check compatibly with your cable service provider.

Strong arm

Spark the engineering spirit in young builders with the Hearthsong Hydraulic Arm Edge ($49.98, ages 10 and up), a working arm that kids assemble and then learn to maneuver using sequences that move its six water-powered levers to make the arm turn, lift, lower, and move blocks and other items to create structures using the arm’s grippers and its super-strong suction cup. As a feel-good bonus, when consumers purchase a STEM toy from HearthSong before December 11, 2017, and Bayer will donate the full value of that toy to Toys for Tots to buy STEM toys from HearthSong at a discount and donate up to $250,000.

 

Fast and curious

Kids can ramp up on the latest augmented reality technology with Osmo’s latest fun, mind-challenging game, Hot Wheels MindRacer ($59.99 on Amazon, ages 5 and up). This interactive game expands the boundaries of play with the classic play experience of Hotwheels cars with the power of mobile computing. Using tokens for a boost and real Hot Wheels cars – each with their own unique skills and personality quirks, players rev up and launch the toys into a fantastical computer-generated racetrack where winning takes both speed and smarts. A special note: this game is the first-ever Hot Wheels product marketed on the package, “For boys and girls!” (iPad sold separately)

Just watch

Give the gift of peace of mind to yourself or love ones with the Honeywell Lyric C2 Wi-Fi Security Camera ($169.99), an easy-to-install and use security system that keeps on eye on your home while you’re away, or inside. Using the Lyric app on a phone or tablet, the C2 streams live video and records using free secure cloud storage (up to 1 GB) and 8GB SD-card storage for back-up, so that you can download surveillance clips from the past 24 hours. The system features voice control capability using the Alexa app, sound detection, night vision, and an HD 145-degree wide-angle view that captures video in sharp 1080p high definition.

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LifestyleTech

MePhoto Road Trip Air is the little tripod that could

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The latest in compact tripods comes loaded with features, including a selfie stick

The MeFOTO Road Trip Air tripod with built-in selfie stick is a great option for serious photographers that want a steady shot but need portability and options for a full-on SLR camera or a smart phone camera, to adapt to the shooting situation.

The tripod features a convenient click-and-lock system for the legs and center column. It took a few minutes to figure it out, but with a firm twist each leg section locks in place.

The ball head and pan head can also be locked or loosened to be fluid. A full-size SLR camera or other small or medium camera with a bottom screw hole can be easily mounted on and removed from the platform using the universal quick release plate.

For mobile shooting, with a twist of the collar and a knob at the bottom of the telescoping center pole, the selfie stick slides out and can be used as a mount for a smart phone with a digital remote.

The center column is also reversible using a retractable weight hook at the bottom of the center column, so that the tripod can be placed ideally for close-up photography and shooting difficult-to-reach objects.

The tripod is available in a variety of chic colors and it also comes with a super nifty and sturdy carry bag with heavy-duty dual straps and a impressively large slide lock.

For a compact tripod system, the Road Trip Air is a kit with a lot of versatility and features. While it folds up relatively small, it is still a bit weighty at 2.5 pounds, so it will fit in a backpack, but it may be more weight than you want to carry if you’re climbing Everest.

The MePhoto Road Trip Air is available on Amazon or at http://www.mefoto.com/ for $175.

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FamilyLifestyleParentingTech

Osmo adds STEAM to kids’ coding with new music creator system

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Coding Jam is the latest gameplay system that teaches kids to code while they play

The other day my son commanded Google Home to play a custom playlist he had created on a Pandora. Two things occurred to me about this. First, wow. The digitally connected future vision of the The Jetsons was coming true; and then, my more mundane thought was, “That music is awful. My 10-year-old child could write better arrangements,” and thanks to Osmo, he can.

Like many other kids who love video games, my son craves leveling up and learning how to improve his skills, and Osmo has harnessed this excitement in a new technology experience, Coding Jam, that allows kids to create music through basic coding. Using colored building blocks and a system that interacts with an iPad or iPhone, kids can arrange and play musical notes in strings and sequences to write their own tunes.

The coding system, designed for kids 5-12, was created by former Google techs as the next generation of award-winning Osmo STEAM-fueled hand-on gameplay that helps children learn valuable coding skills that they can build upon to understand more complex coding, i.e., become the next genius engineers to save the world, or at least they can have fun and create some cool music.

The system works by helping kids learn music fundamentals such as chord progressions, leading into patterns and sequences. As they get to know coding’s creative side, they develop an ear for rhythm, melody and harmony. And more good news for parents: new research finds that high-school students who studied music appreciation scored 61 points better on their verbal SATs and 42 points better on their math SATs.

Once their arrangements are composed, kids can safely share their jammer mixes with family and friends. As they build the system with more blocks, they can create literally millions of combinations and programming options.

Here’s a short glimpse at what the experience is like: https://youtu.be/E9eAMARTnAk.

Osmo system are available at Amazon, Target, ToysRUs and online at the Osmo store.

 

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AdventureEnvironmentLifestyleOutdoorsScienceTech

How to safely view the total eclipse

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This astronomical event is a must-see, but see it safely

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that August 21 is the date of a total solar eclipse, the first mainland America has seen in yearly 40 years. During this historic event, the sun, which is 400 times larger than the moon, will cross pass with the moon which is 400 times farther away from the earth then the moon. During this time, the sun appears to be blocked out by the moon, except for its blinding halo formed by the sun’s gaseous atmosphere that shines around the moon’s silhouette. This will be something you and your children will want to see and experience, but viewing it must be done carefully so that the sun’s rays do not damage the naked eye.

Anytime you stare into the sun you can damage your eyes. This can happen in as little as 30 seconds. The reason an eclipse is more dangerous to the eye is because it causes people to look directly into the sun and for extended periods of time. The only time it’s safe to look directly at the eclipse is during the 1 or 2 minutes that the moon completely blocks the sun, and only people watching from a narrow band from Oregon to South Carolina—known as the path of totality—will witness that.

If you’d like to view this fascinating spectacle, make sure that you wear proper eyewear or use a viewing device. It is not advised to even use a camera or other lenses, as the rays can damage lenses and filters; and it is definitely not recommended to look through any sort of lens, binoculars or telescope. The best advice is to wait until after the event and view images in media taken by professionals using the proper equipment.


It is not safe to use regular sunglasses to watch an eclipse, though inexpensive eclipse glasses I readily available online and it many retailers for the price of about $5 to $10. Make sure to purchase your glasses from a reputable source, as several brands of these glasses on Amazon were recalled due to safety issues. Check out companies approved by the AAS Solar Eclipse task force.

If you have not purchased your glasses yet, you may be out of luck, because most vendors are sold out. But you can still make a pinhole viewer. Using this method, you pass the sunlight

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LifestyleTechTravel

Mobile apps prove a boon and bust for hotels

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Mobile apps are becoming as central to the hotel guest experience as soft pillows, extra towels and a competitive price, according to J.D. Power

The new mantra from front desk clerks is at savvy hotels is, “Enjoy your stay—and have you downloaded our app?”

According to the J.D. Power 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study,SM released today, incorporating mobile apps and functionality into a hotel stay is associated with higher guest satisfaction. Integrating this technology also makes guests more willing to share their positive hotel experiences on social media.

The risk for hotels is that greater use of mobile devices for booking means some guests might secure a room with an online travel agency (OTA), which is associated with lower satisfaction. The industry is currently emphasizing direct booking, where a hotel guest rents a room directly through the hotel rather than another way. Pushing for more guests to become rewards members will likely enhance this effort. While OTAs remain popular among many guests, there are some disadvantages to their use, such as the need to deal with a third party if problems arise with a reservation.

“As mobile usage becomes increasingly ubiquitous for guests, the challenge for hotels becomes twofold: First, they must persuade guests to book directly with them, and second, they must encourage easy utilization of this technology,” said Rick Garlick, practice lead, travel and hospitality at J.D. Power. “By forging direct relationships, hotels can become guardians of the guest experience, but at the center of these relationships is an establishment’s mobile strategy.”

The study, now in its 21st year, measures overall guest satisfaction across eight hotel segments: luxury; upper upscale; upscale; upper midscale; midscale; economy; upper extended stay; and extended stay. Seven key factors are examined in each segment to determine overall satisfaction: reservation; check-in/check-out; guest room; food & beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities; and cost & fees. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.

Following are key findings of the 2017 study:

Direct booking: When guests book through an independent travel website or mobile app (e.g., Expedia, Travelocity) instead of directly with the hotel, they are more likely to experience a problem and to be less satisfied with their stay.

Membership matters: Hotel rewards members are far more likely to book directly with a hotel or on a loyalty member site than those who are not members (75% vs. 47%, respectively), and their satisfaction is higher. The number of those who book through OTAs is increasing (19% in 2017 vs. 16% in 2013), despite the concerns some guests have ranging from earning hotel rewards to strict cancellation policies.
Mobile mania: In 2014, 14% of online reservations were made using mobile means (smartphone or tablet), and now that percentage is 25%. Those utilizing mobile reservations are more likely to be younger or business travelers.

Not so mobile mania: Among guests who have a hotel’s app on their mobile device, 38% don’t use it during their stay. Only a tiny percentage of check-ins (4%) and check-outs (1%) occurs through mobile apps, but when it is used, it is associated with higher guest satisfaction.
Get ’em to try the app: Guests who download and use a hotel’s mobile app are more satisfied and have greater loyalty to that brand. While only 19% of all guests have downloaded a hotel app, 70% of rewards members have done so.

Social media surprise: Despite the perception that people posting to social media only do so to complain, guests describing their experience via these channels appear to be more satisfied overall. At the same time, those who do experience a problem are extremely likely to post to social media (86%).

Reading is fundamental: Slightly more than half (52%) of guests have read a review of a hotel, industry news or an online forum in the past month, and 46% of those guests wrote a review in the past six months. Review readers and writers are also more likely to have higher guest satisfaction.

Hotel Segment Rankings

“While The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott rank highest in the luxury segment, both of these Marriott-affiliated brands appeal to different types of customers,” Garlick said. “It’s important to remember that this study measures guest satisfaction among a hotel brand’s own customers and doesn’t directly compare hotel brands to one another. Often, the type of guest becomes an important element in determining satisfaction rankings.”

The following hotel brands rank highest in guest satisfaction in their respective segments:

Luxury: JW Marriott and The Ritz-Carlton1 (tie)
Upper Upscale: Hyatt
Upscale: Hilton Garden Inn (for a second consecutive year)
Upper Midscale: Drury Hotels (for a 12th consecutive year2)
Midscale: Wingate by Wyndham (for a third consecutive year)
Economy: Americas Best Value Inn
Upper Extended Stay: Staybridge Suites
Extended Stay: Candlewood Suites

The 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study is based on responses gathered between June 2016 and May 2017 from more than 63,000 guests in Canada and the United States who stayed at a hotel in North America between May 2016 and May 2017.

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Decor

A bedroom for all seasons

TedBaker_BlueBeauty_OH_01

Make your bedroom a refreshing retreat, any time of year

Many a travel-weary soul has exclaimed, “There’s nothing like being home in your own bed.” Your bedroom is your private sanctuary, so make it an inviting place where you can rest, sleep and feel restored, surrounded by pure comfort and beauty.

Blooming bed

Bring a lasting bouquet beauty of seasonal blooms into your bedroom with Ted Baker London floral bedding.  The designer known for its rich, vibrant hues and elaborate prints is launching a new line of luxury linens for spring, including the Blue Beauty collection, inspired by souvenir photographs taken by the designer on a bicycle ride around Holland’s tulip fields. The tonal blues create a striking statement against a pristine white backdrop.

The soft 100-perfect cotton comforter sets, coverlets, and decorative pillows are available at Nordstrom.com, priced between $65 to $285.

Counting sleep

Sleeping in total comfort not just a dream. PONS bedding has made it their mission to create the ultimate environment for perfect sleep. The PONS mattress (starting at $599) will help you rest well not just because of its gel infusion for cooler sleep, its breathable knit cover for airflow and its body-conforming foam with three levels of pressure point relief for restful shuteye, but you will sleep well knowing the materials under you are 100-percent eco-friendly and CertiPUR-US certified from head to toe.

The mattress contains no ozone depleters, mercury, lead, and other heavy metals, or formaldehyde or phthalates, and low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions for indoor air quality (less than 0.5 parts per million). PONS made the perfect match to its mattress in a bedframe ($1,199) equipped with USB ports for recharging while you sleep. Soon PONS promised to offer cooling and ultra-dry sheets, comforters and pillows.

Airbn-be-better

Nature’s bounty of trees, plants and flowers, as well as our beloved animals, bring us beauty and joy that make our house a home, inside and out; but they also bring into the home pollen, dander and other indoor pollutants that can be harmful to our health and comfort. Blueair Classic 405 ($599) air purifier filters out the polluting particles to clean unhealthy air in your home environment. It operates quietly, and its modern design discreetly blends in with home décor. Integrated smart technology allows it to be operated remotely with a smartphone.

The clean-air companion to the Blueair air purifier is Blueair Aware ($199), a sleek, small air monitor that continuously measures indoor air quality and quickly detects airborne pollutants, including ultrafine particulate matter (PM2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde and benzene and carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2). You don’t need to know what any of these chemicals and contaminants are – just that when the Blueair Aware indicator shines blue, the air you breathe is A-OK. If the indicator light turns orange, it’s time to shut the windows or eliminate other sources of air contaminants.

Clean case

Feeling good under the covers begins with a fresh, clean bed and pillows. Cover your mattress and pillows with an allergen-barrier to keep down dust mites, pollen, pet dander and other household allergens. AllerEase Ultimate zippered mattress protector ($55.99) and pillow protectors ($9.99) fully encase mattresses and pillows in antimicrobial, hypoallergenic fabric to reduce exposure to irritants; and because the top fabric is soft and pliable, the covers do not alter the feel or breathability of your sleep surface. As an added benefit, the waterproof coverings offer protection from spills, and they can be machine washed and dried for easy care.

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