Getting pure water is a bear. I’ve tried everything. Recently, a company sent me a new reverse osmosis system that sits in a small space on my counter. It’s called “Aquibear.”

Before Aquibear, I tried water pitchers with replaceable filters, such as Brita and ZeroWater. My new condo has an LG refrigerator with a filter built in. But none of these things were as good as Aquibear is so far. I know because I tested them. I bought a $15 “HoneForest” water-quality testing stick on Amazon. All I had to do was put the stick in each glass of water I tested and check the digital read-out.

A high score means lots of pesticides, parasites, arsenic, lead, microplastics, virus nitrates, bacteria and other gunk. Anything under 500 parts per million worth of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) is considered “acceptable,” by the Environmental Protection Agency. But ideal drinking water has a range from zero to 50 TDS. Carbon filters are supposed to give you a range of 50 to 100. My ZeroWater pitcher with a new filter gave me scores in the 135 range. The Brita pitcher, with a new filter averaged about 154. My fridge with a new filter is about the same as the Brita. Aquibear was much better. Its scores have ranged from one to 94. The company says I only have to change the filter every three years. If that’s true, the convenience is great.

To use it, keep it plugged in and fill the tank when it gets low. Tap the picture of a lock to unlock it, and tap the picture of a cup to have water flow into your glass. You can choose eight ounces or 12. Tap the symbol for hot water if you want to make tea. The heating element is metal, so you don’t have to worry about plastic residue. The space it takes up on the counter is about six inches by 11 inches– less than an ordinary sheet of paper. A double-lock system prevents someone from accidentally turning on hot water. The only installation involved is flushing water through a few times to start.

Aquibear is not on the market yet. But you can sign up for notifications at Aquibear.com. The price is expected to be in the $300 range, about $100 less than competitors like AquaTru.

Writing Help

Writer.com offers an extension for Google Chrome that will check your grammar, spelling and style in Gmail and Google Docs. I don’t always agree with it. In Gmail, it highlighted the word “gentleman,” saying I should “avoid unnecessarily gendered language” and aim for “inclusivity.” It also dinged me for too many commas—a bad habit of mine. But it missed many obvious mistakes. I’m testing the 30-day-free trial, which doesn’t require a credit card. After that, it’s $11 a month.

New Translation Tool

A little girl I babysit was astounded to learn there are roughly 6,500 languages in the world. She thought there were about 50. Of course, some of those are in danger of being forgotten. So Google came out with a new artificial intelligence tool called “Woolaroo.”

Woolaroo can translate a photo into another language in real time, starting with Yugambeh, spoken by 100,000 people in South Queensland, Australia. You can try it on your phone or tablet by going to g.co/woolaroo. I tried translating “phone” by taking a picture of my landline. According to TechXplore, the Yugambehs don’t have a word for “phone,” so they use the Yugambeh for “voice thrower.” But when I tried it, they’d already invented a new phrase meaning telephony: “gulgunbiralnyum baleh.” Languages keep evolving.

Measuring Sleep

Sleep Cycle” is a free app that shows you how well you sleep. I signed up for the seven-day free trial of the pro version so I could get the nitty gritty.

I got a rough idea of how long I was in deep sleep, light sleep and wakefulness. My score beat the average every day but one. On that day, it said I was in bed for 38 hours. Maybe my phone was laying around with the app open. Most of the time, however, it seemed accurate. It uses your phone’s microphone and accelerometer, which picks up sounds and movements as you sleep. It said I didn’t snore once in a seven-day period. The average American snores 24 minutes a night.

Speaking of sleep, a recent study by Brigham Young University showed that “Dark Mode” on Android phones and tablets or “Night Shift” on an iPhone/iPad, don’t help you sleep. Blue light filters are bunk too. Ophthalmologists don’t recommend them. Obviously, I wasted money getting a blue light filter on my glasses.


Chess.com gave my nephew renewed appreciation for the internet. He just beat someone from Vatican City, the smallest country in the world. But what he really likes is how much a computer can vary the game.

Not only can you choose a quick version, where each move must be made in a minute, but there are all kinds of other time challenges. In one, you get a three second bonus after each move. If you don’t use the whole three seconds, you get the time back. Theoretically, you could play forever.

People have gone wild for chess during Covid, and the mania continues. It was partly spurred by the Netflix hit “The Queen’s Gambit.”

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