Tech Tips – December 2015

There are an abundance of science fiction metaphors you can come up with to describe the rapid advancement of technology in the 20th and 21st centuries: it’s out of this world, it’s moving at the speed of light, it took off like a rocket ship, etc.  In many cases, humanity has benefited from these technological improvements, from making clean drinking water available where it is scarce to fighting cancer at cellular levels to improving the quality of our daily lives through talking refrigerators that remind us when to buy milk.  How do they do that anyways?

While we applaud the prudent use of our best mind’s inventions, it is the holiday season, at least in the sense that retailers have had their decorations out before Halloween was over.  With every holiday season, marketing teams rush to advertise with no thought to an item’s intrinsic value, but only to wring the proverbial drop of juice from the smallest lemon.  While not a science fiction metaphor, it gives us an accurate picture with which to begin our discussion on bad holiday gifts.  I believe these products were not designed in a workshop nor engineered by anyone; I think they simply sprang out of the ground in the Land of Bad Ideas, cultivated by the Bad Idea Farmer and his lovely wife, Mrs. Bad Idea Farmer.  No one could really let these get past the drawing board could they?


(1)three-wheeled-skates Cardiff Cruiser Youth Skates – Back in 1987, 3-wheelers were banned for 10 years after the CDC found that, yes, sharp turns on a single-wheeled axis make vehicles tip over. While manufacturers today are free to produced the tri-wheel death machines, we can’t exactly applaud the Cardiff Skate Company for producing a non-motorized knockoff, the Cardiff Cruiser Youth skate, an amalgamation of plastic and metal that fits over your shoe to combine into a hybrid tri-wheeled rollerblade/rollerskate.  Mixing the imbalance of an inline skate and the inability to turn sharply of a rollerskate, these devices are best suited for nothing at all.

Arguably, the young lady in the photo looks gleeful as she skates her way to paradise, but a closer looks reveals her grimace as she attempts to stop herself before running into the camera man.  The braking system? Our guess is falling down.

(2)poor-marvin Marvin the Golf Caddy Dog – Have you ever had the hankering for an endearing story about a boy (Teddy) and a dog (Marvin) who meet on a golf course and become the best of friends through Marvin’s uncanny ability to give golf advice and befriend birds of prey?  I haven’t either.  While the plot appears to be vaguely familiar to Old Yeller, in that both stories have dogs and a little boy in them, the similarities end there.

If the illustrations in this book are any indication of it’s quality, you might want to think twice before laying down $23.95 plus tax.  The cover looks like Marvin has a golf flag stuck through his head. If you’re someone with a penchant for golf and retrievers that can give you advice on whether you ought to go with the 9-iron or the wedge, this book might be for you.  For the rest of us, you can still get Old Yeller on DVD.

(3) night-riderzNight Riderz Lighted Zipline – Definitely hip, because of the “z” in Riderz.  What could possibly go wrong with an inexpensive device designed to propel you at high speeds over a distance of 100 feet between two trees?  It’s so safe that the girl in the photo doesn’t even need a helmet, shoes, or a safety harness, unlike every other zipline in existence! Of course mom and dad can set it up for you!  You know, those people who put your brand new BMX bike together and left one of the wheels off?

You get everything with this kit: hardware, cable, seat, and trolley.  The only thing you don’t get is life insurance.

(4)picture-lazy 8,000 Picture Storage Vault –  Any time a company resorts to putting large numbers in the name of its product, you may want to consider if the offering is on the cutting edge of technology.  Wow! It can hold 8000 pictures?  Oh my goodness, I think I’d call that…a USB flash drive!  Touted as having 8 gigabytes of storage, you’d think you could purchase this for $5, just like you can on Newegg or dozens of other electronics retailers.  But you’d be wrong: they’ve added the fascinating ability for the device to search your computer for all jpeg files and copy themselves to the device.  For this convenience and your inability to put all of your pictures in one folder on your computer, they’re only charging you an additional $54.95!  That’s right – this gem can be yours for only $59.95.

There are some solid gift ideas out there this year, but we trust in your hunting and shopping skills to find out what those are.  While  I don’t expect you were on the fence about any of these items, I wanted to give you a double dose of surety to prevent any tears and sad faces from ill-gotten gifts. See you in 2016!

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