Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Funny Face out on DVD

Paul Banas

Audrey Hepburn is my daughter’s favorite movie star. She has seen all her movies except for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which we continue to think is just a little mature for her.
Funny Face, however, is one of her favorites. Though there are scenes of people smoking, most of it is pretty tame, though it is the kind of love story little girls love.

She has bought three books on Audrey Hepburn with her own money, very quickly realizing that they all use the same photos and have very little new to say. So if anyone is out there thinking of a great book to write for my daughter, an all-new story on Audrey Hepburn would be great. Her birthday is in March, so you have 45 days!


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Best last-minute gift ideas for moms

Paul Banas

Just a few days left to get your shopping done. Here are some ideas if you’re short on time.

1. Go to the bookstore. Books are a great idea because you can wander the aisles and be prompted by book titles to think of the right subject for the recipient. A trip to a bookstore, even after work, or on a Sunday afternoon, is a relatively peaceful experience and you might even consider it a break in an otherwise hectic shopping day. Books also have an important advantage: they are easy to exchange or return for full refund.

2. Concert DVDs. Here’s an idea that not everyone thinks of especially for women. If you were the one to buy the 55 inch HDTV, a concert DVD is a perfect way to showcase its features. With so many DVDs for rock, classical, jazz, and every other style imaginable, you can find something really original that will bring the music home.

3. Theater, ballet, opera, or anything else you usually don’t attend, tickets. Many women complain that man just won’t go to these types of events. If there is a type of performance that she’s dying to see, this will surely be a hit. You can even suggest you take another friend, but for even larger effect, volunteer, without complaining, to attend with her.

4. Flowers. Don’t forget this old standby, especially if on Christmas eve day there are still no flowers on your holiday table. Even though there’s not a present to unwrap, flowers are never unwelcome as a surprise gift.

5. Don’t forget that spa certificate. While the spa certificate has become a cliché gift, it’s still always a welcome one. What woman doesn’t want to be pampered for an hour or even a full day. To make this gift extra special however, take the extra step of making a tentative appointment in the near future, as well as making childcare arrangements. Then, all she has to do is show up. This is far better than putting the onus on her to find child care and the perfect moment to take a break.

Remember that online services still can ship with just two days, or even one day advance purchase. If you still have lots of shopping left to do, consider an Amazon prime membership, which provides free two day shipping on all purchases for $79 per year. It isn’t cheap, but it is a good deal if you have a lot of shopping and shipping left to do.

Have a great holiday!

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Baby Light and Clip – great gadget for fingernail-clipping dads

Paul Banas

Baby Light and Clip – Nail Clipper for Babies If you’ve ever struggled to cut a baby’s finger or toenails, you’ll love this little gadget. It’s a very simple little tool that incorporates a basic baby fingernail clipper and a light so you can clip in the dark while they are sleeping. And, if you’ve ever cut down too close and actually cut your baby (yes, it does happen) because baby was struggling, or you couldn’t see, this clipper has finger guard so you can’t push in too deep. This may seem like just another gadget to some, but your kids will really appreciate it, up to eight years old. And the price is right at $14.99 MSRP and right now only $7.99 on Amazon (9/21/08).

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Product review – Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W120

Paul Banas

Sony Cyber-shot DSCW120MDG/P 7.2 MP Digital Camera with 4x Optical Zoom with Super Steady Shot

$180 – Amazon

I love this camera! We just got the DSCW 120 for our summer holiday and I was hoping it would work well and replace our five year-old DSC V1. The two cameras have several things in common: a Zeiss lens and many manual over-ride features, but the new camera is far smaller and easier to use.

This is a great little camera and represents how far Sony has come in developing an interface that is easy to use. This is the first camera I’ve seen where an explanation of the icons shows up on-screen when you dial a selection. No more trying to remember what an icon of a tree or a mountain is. The explanation is there in big type for you.

The 2.5 inch screen is super clear. One of the main benefits of the camera is the “Smile Shutter technology,” but you have to make sure you dial to the smile icon first, or you’ll miss the feature. At first, I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. Once dialed in though, it took a great photo of my four-year-old who is notorious for NOT saying, “cheese.” The camera also boasts “face detection” to reduce facial glare, shadows, and red-eye.

The buttons all appear to be strong and well-placed, though don’t look for industrial strength materials here. While sturdy, I did not get the feeling that the buttons and dial will last a lifetime. This may not be an issue but should be noted. The case feels strong and solid. No buttons wiggle or feel poorly made.

My eight year-old daughter had no trouble operating this camera, but said she preferred something with fewer buttons and dials. I noted only 2 more buttons than her Kodak EasyShare camera, but other features like the viewfinder and extra dial settings confused her. This isn’t a reason to not choose this camera, but it is a camera with more features, which, for some, means more daunting choices.

While other cameras deliver more megapixels, I was more than happy with the 7.2 MP in this camera. At this point, extra megapixels seem to me to just mean bigger memory cards. In fact, I set our photos at 5 MP so I could get about a third more photos out of the memory. This trick is good, but only if you don’t ever plan to do much cropping or enlargements beyond 8X10. With a 1 Gig memory stick, I was able to get almost 400 photos, enough memory for plenty of photos and lots of mini-movies.

Probably the most enjoyable feature of the camera though, was the fast shutter speed. Set on “no flash,” I had very little shutter lag, and could take multiple photos in a row. If you use flash, however, you’re back to the frustration of long shutter lag common to most point and shoot digitals. This is where the “Smile Shutter” technology, which is not unique to Sony, really helps out, since you can catch those fleeting smiles that used to be lost to shutter lag.

The biggest frustration I had was the use of the Sony memory stick duo (not included with the camera). My wife’s camera takes an SD card, which also fits directly into a Palm Treo, so I was hoping to eliminate one memory card and simplify our lives just a tiny bit. Additionally, to lighten our baggage a little, I decided to leave the bulky and proprietary data cable behind in favor of a small memory card reader that could read both SD and Sony memory sticks. Unfortunately, the reader could not read the memory stick duo format, and I was unable to transfer photos off the memory stick during the trip. Luckily, a 2 Gig card was enough to get me through about 320 photos and a few small movies with plenty of room to spare, but I was unable to send any email photos home along the way.

One last recommendation: I got a geeky Sony (LCS-TWF/B) Soft Carrying Case to make carrying the camera easier. While belt holsters really aren’t my thing, I must say that this made taking photos a lot simpler than trying to get my camera out of a bag or even out of my pocket. This holster has a strong magnetic closure, is pretty lightweight, and holds the camera very snugly. I wish they had built a tiny tiny pocket into it to keep an extra memory stick or battery, but otherwise, it’s a very practical addition that I’m sure helped me take more pictures.

Strengths: 7.2 MP, Big clear screen with bright picture, 2.5 inch LCD, easy to read menus, Carl Zeiss 4x optical zoom (you can’t beat the images from these lenses).

Weaknesses: Uses the Sony memory stick duo, so less flexiblity, USB cable is bundled with video, so has proprietary plug. This makes it more convenient (one cord to store), but you’re out of luck if you lose it since it isn’t a common USB cable. Memory sticks seem to have more issues than SD cards for compatibility so there may be some issues with older card readers that can’t read your stick.

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Another gadget that amazes but won’t make it into our house

Paul Banas

41lqqGSJahL._SL160_.jpgWhen I saw the Fred Twist and Spout Kitchen Pour Spout, I thought, “what a cool idea.” It attaches to any twist open bottle turning a throwaway bottle into a pitcher or watering can. Great idea, but at the price, why not just buy a pitcher or watering can. It’s not as if all the stuff you pour out of a bottle needs a holder with each new bottle. In the end, it’s just one more gadget in the drawer. Thought I had to have it, but cooler minds prevailed. Thank you Super Ego!


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