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page10Ah, it’s the holiday season. That means it’s time for our holiday review guide. Below are some thoughts on some items we received in our mailbag and thoughts on the season in general.

This article is always tough; we try to figure out what the typical community college student may need vs. what one could afford and turn away items that don’t meet either criterion.

Let’s start with tablet/computer hybrids. Microsoft won’t take no for an answer and has purchased a huge media blitz for its Surface Pro, despite that the company has largely failed on the phone and tablet fronts. But the Surface Pro is expensive, and if this fails, you’ll be stuck with some outdated technology.

How about instead just buying a really good snap-on keyboard for your iPad? That essentially makes it into a computer of the same size and style as a Surface Pro. You can get a red Logitech Keys-To-Go keyboard for under $70. They come in black and teal, too (We’re not quite sure what color teal is, please don’t tell our former kindergarten teachers!). This keyboard has a durable skin that cleans easily, uses Apple shortcut keys for, say, printing, cutting, pasting, etc., and the keys are much more responsive than the $20 keyboards you can get off eBay. This would give new life to your old iPad or be a nice add-on for a new iPad.

Another item we found in the “affordable” category is the My Spy Birdhouse. About $15 anywhere and kind of cool. It’s in the right price range for a Secret Santa and good for all ages. Just the recipient will have to wait until springtime to mount it. Or they can re-gift it for Valentine’s Day! It attaches to a window so you can see what is going on in a birdhouse. We’re curious if this works better with country birds vs. city birds.

Speaking of holiday office parties, we were quite impressed by the quality knitting from If you want to shock your co-workers with a sweater that seems well-intentioned and a bit off-kilter, try this site. A lot of offices, schools and 5K races have ugly sweater themes this time of year. They come in all sizes. One riffs on classic holiday movie “Home Alone,” another lights up, and couple of sweaters spin Hanukkah and Christmas into one for those who celebrate both traditions. One exposes Santa’s butt crack. These look like grandma knitted them by hand, too, adding to the effect. Prices are $40-65.

Stocking stuffers: The folks at Chapstick sent us their Vanilla Candy Cane mixstix, which allows the user to mix “Vanilla Milkshake and Candy Cane for an irresistible holiday lip treat.” Not to be outdone, the folks at Carmax sent us Carmex Moisture Plus to “take some stress out of the busy shopping season.” Both products are under $3.

Also doing a big media buy this year is Beats, the headphone company. Geez, we remember when headphones were kind of nerdy. You’d sit in the grade school library and listen to “Hooked on Phonics” with them. Ear buds were the cooler thing.
But now it seems people prefer headphones, even at the gym. The latest ones are wireless, which is a big plus, using Bluetooth. So, essentially, you won’t need a designated MP3 player anymore – just store the songs on your phone and link that to the headphones.

But Beats can be kind of pricy – a big media blitz has to be paid for someone; in this case, the consumer. There are other companies doing the same thing. We tried Premier Accessory Group’s new Replay Audio’s Bluetooth Wireless Heaphones + Mic, which come in neon (blue, pink, yellow, orange and green), black and white. Because they also have a mic, you can use them as a phone, too. They tested as durable with great sound and easy to hook up. There is an optional cable, if you don’t want to go the Bluetooth route. They are only $40.

Another item we thought may be good for college students, especially those living with a roommate, is the Dreampad Pillow. It is aimed at people with anxiety, restless sleeping or even autism, ADHD and PTSD. It delivers music through a gentle vibration only the user can hear – your roomie won’t be bothered – and has been studied to help users fall asleep more comfortably. The maker reports that   “Eighty percent of the participants in a recent study showed a significant relaxation response within 15 minutes of using the Dreampad.” It seems that this product has been pretty well vetted by the company and it’s made with high-quality materials.

The company writes: “It is a sleep device that combines [our] psychoacoustic expertise with Intrasound Technology based on the natural conductivity of the human body. Our bones are natural conductors; in fact, every time you speak the vibration caused by your voice is carried by bone to your inner ear.  The new bone-conduction technology delivers sound through vibrations against your skull and the person sleeping next to you does not hear it and you do not need to wear headphones.”

This is about $160 and comes with a few new-agey songs for free download, but you’ll eventually want to hook up a device to it via its headphone jack to play your own music.

This isn’t all that commonly available. You can go to the Integrated Listening Systems site at They have a 30-day trial offer there and a video demonstrating the product.

What great gift did you get or give for the holidays? Let us know and we can let our readers know in the next issue of Campus News! Write to Seasons Greetings from Campus News!