Amazon Halo, the new Fitbit-type wearable I wrote about it last time, is even weirder than I thought. But I like it.

 Halo’s voice analysis can pinpoint my moods to the very second, telling me when I sound delighted, amused, shy, and so on. (I’ve yet to sound angry even once in over three weeks.) For example, it said I was  “miserable” at 11:10 a.m., but “happy” exactly two seconds later. If you want to improve your tone, the app has video challenges for that. For instance, a four-time martial arts champion and yoga expert guides you in warm-ups for powerful public speaking. You can turn off the mike if you don’t want your tone analyzed. Speech samples are processed only on your phone, then automatically deleted.

The sleep analysis is superb. I thought I got at least nine hours of sleep per night, on average. (After all, I was the only one in kindergarten who had to be roused from nap time.) Halo says I average only seven hours. Luckily, she won’t downgrade me  for getting up in the middle of the night unless I do it too often, but she takes a stern view of lollygagging once morning arrives. This morning, my score dropped from 75 to 71 when I lolled around for an extra 30 minutes. Halo also tracks sleep disturbances, which are defined as any time you’re awake in the night for more than five minutes. More than three are inadvisable, but the app’s sleep videos and tips can help with that. 

My only beef so far is the activity monitor. I can get 60 points for cycling a half hour, only one point for yoga. But anyone who’s done power yoga knows that it beats the heck out of cycling on a low gear.

Magnetic Toy Teaches Young Scientists

A toy came in for review that taught me something about magnetism. For $30 from Target, the “Magnetic Motion Set” from Geomag could get any kid’s imagination working.  At least for half an hour.

There are four projects. Each one has two components. When you set one side swinging, the steel balls in it get the steel balls on the other side swinging too. With a gentle push to start it off, they can keep swinging on their own for about 30 seconds.

The box says it’s for ages 7 and up, but unless your child is a genius, you’ll want to help. There are few words in the instructions, it’s almost all pictures. Basically, you use a magnetic stick to check polarity: if a magnet repels, it will go with one kind of design element; if it attracts, it will go with another. Look at the pictures carefully. My friend and I started by putting some orange discs together upside down. It’s not obvious at first how they interlock with each other. 

I thought the last project was attractive enough to put on display. But if you want hours of amusement, you’ll have to order more pieces.

Trading in Your iPhone for a New One

Most people trade in their phone at the carrier where they bought it.  But according to Flipsy.com, iPhone buyers could get $200 more if they avoid Verizon and AT&T and try a site like Swappa or eBay.

 Alternatively, you could skip the auction sites and use Flipsy, which directs you to websites that offer instant cash. Your offer won’t beat eBay, but it’s convenient. You won’t have to take pictures of your gizmo or provide a written description, like you would on an auction site. Besides, there’s always a risk that your used item won’t sell. According to oberlo.com, used items on eBay don’t sell as well as new ones, at least in the U.S. Only 40 percent of used items get sold, compared to over 56 percent of new ones. It’s the reverse globally.


  • Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon in a Zoom Book Discussion at BookPassage.com

    Go to Wikiwand.com to download a freebie that makes Wikipedia look like a pleasant magazine. After I did, I searched on Google for “corn” and clicked on the Wikipedia link. Instead of the usual gray page, the article appeared in Wikiwand, with photos attractively placed and a table of contents in a colored bar on the left.

  • BookPassage.com. Sign up to get a daily, live interview with an author, or browse their recordings. Recently, I watched one with P.J. O’Rourke. It was funny and insightful.


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