Thursday, July 19, 2018

Review: Sundowns Naturals Melatonin 300mcg

One of my weapons in combating jet-lag is to take Melatonin. I usually use the trader joes chewable pills and cut them in half (300mcg --- that's micrograms, not milligrams is the correct dosage), but this time had run out and so found the Sundowns pills on Amazon.

OK. These didn't work. Despite taking them, my jet-lag was much worse than usual. They're not chewable, so no good for kids. (Fortunately, Bowen didn't need help with jet-lag going to Europe this time)

OK. I should learn my lesson. Don't mess with what works. Next time, get the Trader Joes chewables.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Review: Bcozzy Chin Supporting Pillow

I have a tough time sleeping on airplanes. This time, I went on Wirecutter and researched good travel pillows to see if they would help. Their lead pick, the Travelrest Ultimate Memory Foam pillow was so popular that you couldn't buy it for love or money, though it's now available for those who want to try it.

The Bcozzy, however, had good reviews and comes in both adult and kid size, so I  bought one for myself and one for Bowen. I did sleep with the BCozzy: it comfortably support your neck so that even when you nod off your neck doesn't bend forward and then wake you up. It was also very useful for Bowen: while he could sleep anywhere, it's useful to have the pillow supporting him so that his head wasn't directly on a hot spot on my legs, but rather, the pillow would spread his weight out so that his sleeping didn't bother me.

It doesn't look like any other travel pillow, and doesn't compress well. It does come with a clip so you can clip it to the outside of the backpack, so that part is well designed.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Review: Legends of the Fall

I'd never seen the movie, Legends of the Fall, and I thought the book might be more palatable.

It's a collection of 3 stories, only one of which got made into a movie.  The first one is a revenge story with a twist. The second one is a strange story about a man who became very successful but then gives up all his money after he realizes that his success didn't actually make him happy or solve his problems. The last is a bizarre story that couldn't hold my interest.

The protagonists of the stories aren't likeable, and the plots while potentially interesting, don't move me.  The writer's voice is detached, and not lyrical, poetic, or anything that would cause me to seek out more of his work.

Not recommended.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: Bad Blood - Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

I will confess that I never did follow the Theranos story very carefully. Unlike many others, I've never had a fear of blood tests, nor am I by nature an early adopter, so the prospect of only getting a "finger prick" rather than a venous blood draw never got me very excited.

Bad Blood covers the story, and in great detail. It reveals the tricks and techniques that Elizabeth Holmes and her executives used to brow-beat, intimidate, and trick employees, investors, and famous people into investing in the company, aiding it in its lies, and then intimidate those who would expose its illegal acts to the public.

There are many moments in the narrative where I think to myself, "My goodness, how did this story ever get made? The bad actors in the story are so powerful!" Then I realized that of course, the "technology" they were selling never worked, and they would have eventually been caught, though perhaps not before they hurt a ton of people with inaccurate or misleading blood tests.

The story is exciting, interesting, and of course, impeccably researched. It's interesting to me how easily most of the media was taken by personality, while nobody actually followed up and looked at the product by doing the kind of comparison study that John Carreyrou did (get an assay done by the Theranos product, and get one done by Labcorp).

In any case, the book comes highly recommended, and it's a good reminder that staying away from sociopaths is a good idea. Even if the good guys eventually win, the bad guys can still make your life very painful in the mean time. Buy or borrow your copy and read it!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Long Term Review: Brush On Sunblock

Since my review of the Brush On Sublock last year, Costco has stopped carrying it. Amazon still carries it, however. Since then, I've also tried the Goddess Garden Organics sunscreen, and it's no contest, the Brush On stuff is way superior.

Here's why the Brush On stuff is better: it's not greasy. If all you're doing is hiking or walking around, this may not matter. But for a cycling trip, grease basically picks up any dirt that's around, whether thrown up by your wheels, blown at you by passing cars, or even just rattling around on an off-pavement bike trail. The brush on stuff NEVER attracts dirt. At the end of the day, when doing laundry we'll find our clothes dirty enough that the sink has dirt stains, but I no longer have days when during the shower we see a continuous stream of dirt coming down into the drain.

Even more importantly for a bike tour, the Brush On sunscreen is very economical: I carried 1 semi-used brush, and 1 spare refill. At the end of 2 weeks, I switched to the refill, and that's during a trip where there was not a single day when I didn't put on sunscreen.

None of the above matters if the sunscreen didn't work. But it works awesome. I'm a dark skinned person, and I have a hard time telling whether I've put it on (yes, it's invisible on my skin). So I stand in front of the mirror and make sure I've covered every spot systematically. Even with multiple hot days with lots of sun exposure (Italian bike paths never have shade), and plenty of sweating, we never got sunburned. And that includes taking off and putting on arm warmers on certain days (which happens because of elevation changes, not because of sun exposure).

I can't recommend this sunscreen enough. If you're bike touring, this is superior to anything I've ever used, and I can't imagine ever switching to a different brand.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Review: Eucalan Delicate Wash

When Bicycle Touring, daily laundry is just something you have to do. Some people get around this by buying and using Wool Jerseys, which can be worn multiple days without stinking up, but that only makes the problem worse: wool dries slowly so when you do have to wash, your drying time is much increased. My preference has long been synthetics, which dry quickly if you wring them using a towel.

When traveling with a 6 year old who can’t be expected to do his own laundry, your laundry load doubles. This time, I decided to experiment with Eucalan, a “no-rinse” detergent originally designed for delicate stuff that has to be hand washed. The cost is considerably higher than say, carrying a bottle of Tide from home, but at $5 per bottle (or $6.70 from Amazon) from the local dye shop, the cost is negligible compared to the cost of plane tickets to Munich (The most direct competitor, Soak, costs a lot more)

I have to say that Eucalan works. Any parent of a 6 year old can tell you that the kid gets way dirtier faster than you can imagine. At the end of the day, whenever I washed, I’d notice that the drained water had so much dirt in it that it would stain the wash basin. I was skeptical that the detergent was working, and one of the problems is that you can’t easily calibrate how much you’re using, but the bottle survived the entire trip with just a tiny bit left at the end. The wash process is much simplified by not having to rinse, and the scent isn’t noticeable, at least, not in the amounts I used.

Needless to say, my next tour will include a bottle of Eucalan. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review: Dr Kao Travel Charger for Oral B Toothbrush

If you look at the bottom of your Braun electric toothbrush induction charger, you’ll see that it’s only set up for 110V only, rather than the 110/220v setup most other devices get. This is annoying. The current required by these toothbrushes for charging is so low and slow that there’s no reason why the charger couldn’t be driven by a USB power source.

Well, it turns out that a third party manufacturer has made precisely this charger. It takes a microusb input, and the other side is a standard USB A interface, which means you can carry a standard charger on a bike tour or sailing trip and charge it either from mains or from a power bank.

Having tried this on our tour, I have to say that it’s more than satisfactory. It doesn’t charge very quickly. For instance, if you used the toothbrush six times and then charged it overnight using the charger, it wouldn’t charge fully overnight, but close enough that the motor doesn’t slow down. Over a long trip, what you’ll discover is that you reach an equilibrium: the more drained the battery is, the faster it charges, but it’ll never reach a state of a full charge.

If you like using electric toothbrushes, this is a great travel accessory, and you should probably never carry the charger that comes in the box for the toothbrush when traveling. Recommended.