SH Sean Harding/blog
TIBTIL: Mastercool Infrared Thermometer
Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Ok, this technically isn’t something I bought that I love — it was a gift. But it’s a very cool gadget, and I do love it. It’s a Mastercool 52224-A Infrared Thermometer. It looks like a little gun. You just point it at something and it instantly tells you the temperature. Cool! (Or “hot!” as the case may be.)

See? Cool!

See? Hot!

See? Even hotter!

I know I’m a major geek, but it’s very fun to be able to instantly tell the temperature of anything in the house. I can tell how cold different areas of the fridge are. I can tell how hot different parts of the oven or grill are. I can see how hot the gear in the entertainment center is getting. Nifty! Apparently this is really supposed to be some sort of automotive tool, but I doubt I’ll actually ever use it for that kind of thing.

Since I’m in the process of seeing how hot different things are, I’ll do this last one. Just for you, Jennifer ;-)

Grammar is notn’t easy
Monday, May 5th, 2008

I have to hand it to MySpace. They really know their demographic. They know that the best way to communicate with their users is to write like them.

Too many towels
Monday, April 21st, 2008

As some of you know, we’re having our master bathroom remodeled. I don’t really want to talk about that right now. But I do want to talk about towels.

We decided that when our new bathroom debuts, we should have new towels too. Of course, just going to the store and buying some towels wasn’t good enough. No, as always, I had to overdo it. It started out with some research online. I found quite a few opinions, but no consensus and precious little information about many of the recommended products. What to do? Buy some samples, of course!

I ended up buying samples of nine types of towels, mostly based on recommendations I found online. For each type, I bought one white hand towel (except a couple for which I accidentally bought washcloths instead). We felt them, washed them a bunch of times and used them just as we would normal towels. And in the end, we had a winner. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let me introduce the contenders. The prices here are the best (legitimate looking and in-stock) price I could find for one full-size white bath towel (not a bath sheet) as of April, 2008.

Clearly there’s a huge range of prices there. But is a $64 towel really that much better than a $15 towel? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. Some people seem to value softness above all else. Others obsess over color fastness. And for some folks, absorbency is king. We don’t care about color fading — we’re getting white towels. Clearly absorbency is important. But softness is an interesting issue. In the past, I’ve found some towels to almost be too soft — they can feel “sticky” as they go across your skin. No good.

In the batch of towels, there were a few styles. The Pinzon and Restoration Hardware towels are almost identical. They’re a heavy, dense, absorbent towel, but not terribly soft. The Pinzon feels slightly softer and thicker, but I can only tell the difference when they’re side by side. I actually really like this style of towel. On the other end of the spectrum are the Abyss and Matouk towels (and maybe the Yves Delorme Etoile). They’re thick, absorbent and extremely soft.

The rest fall somewhere in the middle. They’re soft, but not unusually so. They’re mostly nice, basic towels. The bamboo towel is my favorite of the Lands’ End selection. The Egyptian is pretty nice and is thick, but not as soft as the bamboo. The Supima Zip-Dry was unimpressive. The Yves Delorme Olympe was also fairly unimpressive, especially when the price is taken into account. It’s just a notch above the Supima Zip-Dry, but costs almost three times as much. No thanks.

After using them for a while, the Matouk Milagro was the winner.

The runners-up were: Lands’ End Bamboo, Pinzon and Yves Delorme Etoile. If you like the dense, heavy (but less-soft) style, the Pinzon is a great option. Given the similarity to the Pinzon and the higher price, I can’t see a reason to buy the Restoration Hardware other than color selection. The Yves Delorme is very nice, but is substantially more expensive than the others, and the Matouk is at least as nice (I like it better even when cost isn’t taken into account). The Lands’ End is very nice also, but really seems like it’s out of its league in comparison to the others. If budget is a concern, though, it’s definitely worth taking a look at.

The Abyss Super Pile has been touted as the best towel in a few places, so it might surprise some people that it didn’t even make our final four. The Abyss is nice. But I don’t think it’s uniquely great. The Matouk seems thicker, softer and more absorbent to me. The Abyss has a sewn edge all around, with curved corners. Some people like that, but I prefer a more traditional look. And on top of all that, the Abyss is the most expensive of the bunch, and also apparently in short supply (almost everywhere I checked was out of stock when I ordered my samples). It’s not bad, but I don’t think it lives up to the hype.

Friday, April 18th, 2008

You have got to be kidding me. What month is it again? This photo was shot moments ago from my front porch.


On pre-announcing and impulse buys
Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

The Apple TV Take 2, originally announced at Macworld about a month ago, is finally available. And while I was ready to buy one after I heard the announcement, my eagerness has worn off. The price point is relatively low, so I may still eventually buy one, but I’m not terribly excited about it. And this is the danger with pre-announcing products.

I think there’s a direct relationship between how exciting a product is and the amount of pre-announcement time it can support. A revolutionary product like the iPhone will continue to hold interest even over a six month wait. The iPhone probably even gained interest between its announcement and release. But few products are iPhones. The Apple TV, even in its “Take 2” incarnation, is most certainly not an iPhone. It’s a neat product, but not a superstar.

Excitement about the new Apple TV was likely at its peak in the days (or even hours) after the Jobsnote. If it had been available to buy immediately, I surely would have 1-Clicked™ one without a thought. But as the days wore on, my interest dwindled. I thought more about how much I’d actually use it and how good it would really be. It’s dangerous to pre-announce ordinary or evolutionary products. It’s even more dangerous to then slip the release date, as Apple did with the Apple TV. They killed their opportunity to get impulse buys from people like me. They let the buyer’s remorse set in before I actually bought. Bad plan.

I’ll be reading the reviews, and if I hear great things about the HD rentals, I’ll probably be pushed over the edge. But I can’t help thinking that this was the wrong product to pre-announce.

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