Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

13 Products I Use and Would Buy Again

This is just to let folks know about a few products that I feel have given me my (or someone else’s) money’s worth and more. Maybe it isn’t in time for gift buying this year, but it could be good for those who receive gift cards or cash, or just those who have been looking and haven’t quite decided yet.

Sony Playstation 3
Description: entertainment hub for the entire family
Date of First Use: December, 2008
Paid: About $399 for the Little Big Planet 80GB edition
This is somewhat passe now, because the Playstation 3 (PS3) is no longer the cutting-edge entertainment machine it was at its release. That’s part of my point. I received the PS3 as a Christmas gift back in 2008. Still sporting all its original components, it has not failed me in nine years of use. That is quite a record for any computer (yes, it’s a computer), let alone one that so easily allows us to watch Bluray Discs and streamed content, along with occasional gaming, right on our living room television. I also was able to rip our music CD collection to it, and we can use it to stream music and video from our other computers. It has proven itself reliable after several vacation trips to other states, and through two moves. Recently, we dropped our expensive television plan and use the much less costly PlayStation Vue (PS Vue) television service. Two thumbs up

Roku Ultra Streaming Player
Description: entertainment hub for the entire family
Date of First Use: September, 2017
Paid: $104
When our PS3 started showing signs of slowness running the PS Vue app (our method of watching TV), and became more of a gaming hub for our son, we moved it to the sitting room. The Roku has easily filled the role the PS3 used to play in the living room: watching Netflix, PS Vue, YouTube, and any other video streaming we ever (but rarely) use. We also can cast certain content from our phones to the Roku. There are free games available, but the ads that play between sessions get annoying. The PS Vue app got a recent update that now includes a guide, a feature the Roku version sorely lacked when we first bought it. Unlike the PS3, it works with our universal remote without any special adapter. You might still want to keep the Roku remote on hand; it includes a headphone jack.

iPod Classic 160GB Edition
Description: portable music and video player
Date of First Use: January, 2013
Ever since I sold my Apple IIe computer that served me well from 7th grade through my freshman year in college, I have not been an Apple computer fan. I must say, however, that like that trusty IIe, the iPod Classic has been a rock-solid performer. I still am not crazy about iTunes, but I overlook it because I use it only to add music occasionally. The iPod has survived several hard drops without a protective case, and only has problems when a car stereo that purports compatibility locks it up and requires a reboot. That said, it works flawlessly with my Mazda 2’s stock stereo. The click-wheel design and its interface combine to form an elegant, arguably unequaled physical control system (no touch-screen). Bravo for this product, Apple, but boo for discontinuing it. Couldn’t you at least have added one with Bluetooth capability?

Philips Simply Straight HDTV Wall Mount
Description: an easy-to-use, VESA-compliant wall mount for various HDTV sizes
Date of First Use:
Paid: $42.93
Much less expensive than mounts much more difficult to use, this was an absolute breeze. My brother happened to be visiting our home when we first installed it, and we were amazed at how simple it was to install it on the wall and then get the TV level on it. We have since used it on two other walls without any trouble. Seriously, until you see this thing, you can’t realize how simple it is. Officially called the Philips SQM6375/27 Simply Straight HDTV Fixed Wall Mount for 42- to 60-Inch Screens, it will hold our primary television for many more years to come.

Anker Multi-port USB charger
Description: charges up to five devices via USB ports
Date of First Use: July, 2014
Paid: $25.99
I know it as a handy device that plugs into a standard wall outlet, and allows charging of up to five devices via USB cable. It is a well-built, reliable alternative to multiple chargers or using a computer’s USB port to charge something. It always sits in an out-of-the-way spot on our kitchen counter, but it is also convenient to take on trips where multiple charging blocks are impractical and prone to being let behind. Technically, its full name is the Anker 40W 5-Port Family-Sized Desktop USB Charger with PowerIQ Technology.

Creative Sound Blaster Jam Bluetooth Headphones
Description: a set of lightweight, adjustable traditional headphones connected via Bluetooth
Date of First Use: Father’s Day 2015
Paid: $39.99
After more than two years of extensive use, these headphones still fit comfortably on my large head and deliver very good sound for everything from podcasts on my phone to movies from our living room sound system. Old-school computer nerds will remember Creative Sound Blaster from back in the days of installing 8- or 16-bit sound cards to give DOS and Windows computers the gift of stereo sound. I was glad to see their name living on in such an excellent product.

Anker SoundBuds Sport Bluetooth Headphone (earbuds)
Description: a set of Bluetooth earbuds
Date of First Use: November, 2017
Paid: $29.99
The only wire on these earbuds connects the two sides to one another. They sound decent and stay on the ears through mountain bike rides (and crashes!) and other rigorous exercise. I’m able to answer calls while still riding and my music automatically attenuates. I can adjust the volume and pause or skip a track without stopping. The features, if not the sound, easily elevate them above any dumb, wired earbuds.

Bluetooth Transmitter by TaoTronics
Description: sends Bluetooth signal from any device with an aux out jack
Date of First Use: February, 2016
Paid: $27.99
The product’s performance has been flawless so far. It pairs easily with my Soundblaster Jams headphones and with my RevJams Active Sport earbuds. The sound is very good in both, for music and for dialogue. The unit is so small that it’s simple to unplug from one device and plug it into another. I cannot express in words the convenience of getting up off the couch and going into the kitchen during a late-night talk show without worry about pulling a long audio cable along with me. If you have not gone Bluetooth yet, then this transmitter would be the perfect purchase for you to see how you like it. Its size limits the battery capacity, but it lasts at least three or four hours for me. It charges via USB cable.

Anker Bluetooth Receiver
Description: Add-on for car stereo or other device with aux input
Date of First Use: May, 2016
Paid: $17.99
I stayed with the Anker brand after their USB charger proved so solid and reliable. This device is powered by USB and plugs into the auxiliary port of my car stereo. Using Bluetooth, I can listen to music from my phone or conduct hands-free calls with the sound coming out of my car’s speakers. It is only almost as convenient as the factory-equipped version. I say that because it does not allow me to push a button and say “call wife.” Its somewhat unusual name–Anker Soundsync Drive–is a bit misleading, because it isn’t a drive at all. Great product, though, and I recommend it if you want Bluetooth functionality in your vehicle without completely replacing the stereo.

Tiergrade USB Type-C to Micro USB Adapters – 3-pack
Description: adapters for the newer Type-C USB connector found on Apple devices and some Android phones.
Date of First Use: December, 2016
Paid: $5.99
My LG-G5 was a welcome upgrade to my LG-G2, but it inconveniently featured the Type-C USB plug. Although it is superior to Micro USB because there is no upside-down, it rendered all my micro USB cables useless–until I got this quality pack of three Tiergrade adapters. They still lock into place well, after multiple uses on several cables. The only drawback is that after less than a year of use, the black plastic sleeve covering the adapter tends to slip off when I unplug it. So far it has slipped back on fine, but I would knock off a star for that.

iFrogz Coda Pop Bluetooth Speaker
Description: a small, water-resistant speaker that uses Bluetooth
Date of First Use: December, 2016
Paid: $10.99
My technically challenged wife loves using this wireless speaker with her smartphone, and that it is small enough to either carry to the next room or slip into a front pocket for easy portability. The speaker features a sliding on-off switch on the bottom, much more convenient than a button that requires holding down a certain number of seconds. In addition to Bluetooth, it allows connection via standard aux cable. The tiny cylinder produces fuller sound than a mobile phone’s built-in speaker, but is suited better for personal listening than for filling a room during a party. The bass is better when it is set upright, but it is small enough to be stuck onto a shower wall with added Velcro and aimed any direction you like. Tip: if you do that, position the speaker above the water stream with the USB and aux ports turned to the dry side.

2013 Mazda 2 hatchback
Description: a small, fuel-efficient car
Date of First Use: July, 2014
Paid: $13,000
I bought this car used for cash, and after three years it is still serving us very well. With only oil changes, tires, and a brake job, it’s about time for some regular maintenance to make sure it stays reliable. We always drive cars until they are worth pretty much nothing, so buying for cash wasn’t much of a question when we had it from the proceeds of our house sale in Texas. We had not had a car payment for me for nearly 10 years, so we didn’t see a reason to start one.

KHS Six-Fifty 2500 Mountain Bike – 2013 model
Description: a mountain bike designed mainly for trail use, not extreme enduro or downhill
Date of First Use: October, 2014
Paid: $1299 (marked down from $2499 for being last year’s model)
This is my first mountain bike, and still my only one as of this writing. With its original parts I learned to ride trails in northwest Arkansas, an area quickly becoming a mountainbiking mecca. While riding in a total of eight states, I have replaced everything but the frame, the cranks, and the rear hub. I have ridden alongside other guys on the same trails, taking the same lines, watching costlier frames break, but my KHS keeps going. The rear rim and spokes made it through almost three years and more than 2500 miles of hard trail riding, until I made an executive decision to sacrifice my rear wheel on a summer 2017 trip to Santa Fe. My tire had gone catastrophically flat even after two fixes, and I had to get down out of the remote mountains somehow. So, ride on a flat I did, down more than 6 miles of rim-killing rough trail. That was all on me.