Don’t look like a dork with yellow lenses! Phonetic Eyewear Review


Phonetic Bravo

At some point in the last few years I’ve amassed quite a collection of glasses designed to reduce the glare from computer screens. In 2012, I reviewed two pairs of Gunnar glasses which were lovely but slightly pinchy, and definitely a little out of the average buyer’s price range.

Earlier this month, Phonetic Eyewear got in touch with me about reviewing their new line of phone and computer glasses. Phonetic caught my attention with a style of lenses that reported to provide the same level of glare reduction without forcing the user to look like a cyber punk loon running around in yellow lenses. So, I decided to give them a try.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve worn a pair of slate Bravo style Phonetics with the clear, blue-light reducing lenses. I wanted to put them through all the hardships my standard reading glasses go through and even started wearing them daily.

I’m not gentle with glasses. I take them off in random places, my pets inevitably jump on the sofa and lounge on them, and I’m constantly bumping my eyes with my fingers and sloshing toothpaste on them (I really don’t know how that happens). So, let’s see if they’ve endured my trials.

The Lenses

Phonetic lenses are made of the same material most prescription glasses are — a rugged plastic with a scratch resistant coating. They’re very easy to clean, and for the Bravo style you won’t have too much trouble wiping dirt and inevitable smudges from the edges of the lens, unlike many wayfarer-style glasses on the market. the lenses aren’t overly recessed and that definitely helps.

Jasmine wearing PhoneticsPhonetic also offers lenses with reading magnifications. I don’t have a proper prescription, but I started wearing low magnification reading glasses a few years ago to help my eyes focus better when I am reading and working on a computer — which is always. My eyes do a weird jittery thing that makes it hard to focus without something forcing them back into position. Glasses with +0.25 magnification do the trick.

But you’re probably more interested in the glare reducing properties, yeah? I was a little skeptical about the clear lenses offering satisfactory protection until I realized they only give the illusion of being clear. If you look at the pictures I took you likely won’t see any color distortion through the lenses or around my eyes, but this is largely because of the angle.

The lenses have a faint bluish coating that doesn’t noticeably alter the color you see around you, unlike yellow lenses that give the world a vague sepia hue. No, the Phonetic lenses are much more natural in how they filter light, and I’m less inclined to look over them when I’m working on something colorful. They feel more like glasses than protective eyeware which makes them much more comfortable to use.

I also don’t experience the tension I sometimes felt wearing Gunnars. the Gunnars I’ve worn do help with eye strain but the color distortion eventually gave me a headache if I wore them longer than a few hours. I’ve worn the Phonetics every day since they arrived and have yet to feel that tension.

They even work on the Nintendo 3DS! Many strain-reducing lenses disrupt the glasses-free 3D trick in the 3DS screen but I didn’t notice this at all when I cranked the screen up.

Phonetic Bravo 2

The Frames

Phonetic says the frames (particularly the Bravo style) are made from TR90 plastic, which is apparently referred to as “plastic titanium” by people far more into their plastic resilience grades than I am.

What I can tell you is that the frames are ridiculously light. Like, so light I forget I’m wearing them when I change into pajamas at night. Despite not feeling like they’re on my head most of the time, the frames have endured more than one crazy cat fit when I’m dumb enough to leave them on the sofa cushion. I don’t feel like I have to baby these lenses, which cannot be said for even the Gunnar Phenoms that have a metal frame.

I opted for the thicker plastic frames because metal earpieces have a tendency to cut into my ears. The earpieces are nicely contoured to prevent pinching, which is probably why I forget I’m wearing them. These feel like actual glasses and not something you’ve started using in lieu of seeing an optometrist.

If they can survive my hell cat bounding across furniture and tables, they’ll likely survive whatever you do to them on a daily basis. Phonetic also provides a handy hard case for them if you’re a responsible person that puts glasses up at night (I’m not) and a very soft microfiber cloth in a protective pouch. I keep the pouch in my wallet so I’m never without something to wipe soup and toothpaste off my glasses with.

The Price

All Phonetic frames + lenses sets are $75. So, the pair I have and any of the other styles they provide are cheaper than their competitors.

Silly pictureAnd definitely cheaper than Gunnar’s graphic designer focused line of clear lenses. Gunnar Crystalline lenses start at $99. They look sleek and professional, but I don’t think they’re that much better looking than the Bravo Phonetics I’m wearing. If you need to look like the sharpest, coolest person who has ever put together a Realtor ad, then you might opt for the more expensive set.

Of course this is said without having tried the Gunnar Crystalline series. I’d be willing to at some point, but I don’t know if the experience would be that different from the clear Phonetic lenses I’m wearing now. I just raised and lowered the Phonetics in front of my eyes a few times to notice color distortion. Perhaps things do look a little more yellow with the glasses on but it’s not as overwhelmingly yellow like wearing traditional glare-reducing glasses.

Should You Buy Them?

If you’re in the market for durable, light, and effective glare reducing lenses with affordable lens power customization, Phonetics are good choice. They’ve passed all my tests, are still scratch free, and are now my go-to glasses for work and gaming. They’re so much more comfortable than other computer glasses I’ve worn.

The fact that Phonetic gives you a hard case for them is also nice. Many computer glasses arrive in draw string bags inside cardboard boxes. It just cuts out how much more money you’re investing in likely part-time use glasses.

Clear lenses are cool, and I don’t feel like a massive dork wearing them every day. I’ll likely keep wearing the Phonetics until I manage to break them — which I hope isn’t any time soon.

You can find Phonetic Eyewear here. Check out their explanation on the lens tech.

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Star Trek Novel Project #3: The Kobayashi Maru


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Title: The Kobayashi Maru
Author: Julia Ecklar
Published: 1989
Series: The Original Series
Found: The Dickson Street Book Store in Fayetteville, AR for $2

It’s no secret that Captain James Kirk cheated on the Kobayashi Maru test. His firm belief in conquering no-win scenarios is alive and well when he finds himself stranded on a shuttle trapped in a debris field after a gravitic mine knocks out the engines. But he isn’t alone. Scotty, Chekov, Bones, and Sulu are onboard with him. They’d planned to help transport scientists away from a research facility, but the gravitic mine  left them with no way to escape and out of sensor range of the Enterprise.

So the best way to pass the time is to tell each other how they tackled the Kobayashi Maru, and by doing so offer insight to their character and career.

Author Julia Ecklar paints the Kobayashi Maru as a daunting, shadowy trial reserved only for Starfleet Command Academy students. The computer cheats by countering every tactical move the hopeful captain makes by drastically overestimating the power of Klingon vessels, out maneuvering them, or simply spawning enemies until the cadets are destroyed.

In this take, Bones has no idea what the Kobayashi Maru is, and none of the crew stranded on the shuttle realized the others had taken the test. No, the Kobayashi Maru is a painful secret but one that ultimately set each man on the path they now follow.

What’s the Deal
As Kirk, Bones, Scotty, Chekov, and Sulu slowly accept that they might be trapped in a gravitic-mine-induced no-win scenario, each think back on the events surrounding the time they took the Kobayashi Maru at the command academy. Well, except Bones, who had never heard of the Kobayashi Maru and is keenly interested in understanding what the test involves.

Now, if Ecklar had gone into this by just retelling virtually the same mission each time, this book would be incredibly dull. To avoid this, each character not only talks about what happened during their attempts at the test, but also talk about their time in the command academy around it.

Kirk, predictably, spent hours upon hours trying to convert a universe full of tactical knowledge to memory before altering his test, Chekov (so obsessed with trying to live up to Kirk’s legacy) learns a harsh lesson about being clever over doing the right thing, and Scotty reveals why he’s a damned fine engineer who also ends up controlling the Enterprise from time-to-time. Beyond their creative attempts to “beat” the Kobayashi Maru, each man explores their motivations and personal revelations and not just how the simulation tried to cheat them.

The Good
This is an old-fashioned flashback episode. Ecklar captures the tone of each character so vividly that you can envision them being trapped on a roughed up particle board set trading stories about their younger selves. It’s a pity that the original series didn’t get a chance to really investigate the lives and histories of its characters, but the extended fiction is up to that task.

What makes The Kobayashi Maru feel like an episode is that each flashback builds on the next, and gives the crew the hope to survive by reminding them of the lessons they learned in school. While each crew member has a different feeling toward the simulation, that experience unites and inspires them to survive. Which involves a very strange sequence where Chekov turns a survival exercise into The Hunger Games.

The Bad
All flashback-reliant stories end up feeling very formulaic after a while. Even though I appreciate how Ecklar approached four different interpretations of the Kobayashi Maru, the overall purpose is clear from the beginning. And, add to that the knowledge that this stranded shuttle craft doesn’t actually pose the greatest danger to Kirk and crew, the emotional impact is lost.

On a more uncomfortable note, this book was published in 1989 yet Ecklar repeatedly refers to Asians as “Orientals.” It’s clearly not meant offensively, but it is shocking to see the term used. I don’t think it is a book-ruining offense, but more a curious choice when Asian was rapidly becoming the acceptable term when describing people from, well, Asia, even in 1989.

Should You Read It?
Absolutely. The Trek books I enjoy most (and that are arguably the best) are those that conjure up images you can build with your memories of the series they represent. In The Kobayashi Maru, it is easy to imagine a busted up shuttle, and to think about the sparking simulation bridge in The Wrath of Khan. You can clearly picture dialog being spoken in the actors’ voices, and identify their expressions without the need for meticulous description. Books that can truly bring the show alive in print are vastly preferable to long diatribes about whether Data has a soul (yes, I’m still trying to get over Metamorphosis).

Also, Ecklar’s view of Starfleet as a military academy may not be unique, but she brings a certain darkness to it that forces each main character to burn brighter to reach their potential. I’ve never thought of Starfleet as particularly military-minded, despite the naval ranks and ship identifications. It struck me as simply naval remains for a now research focused institution with a light military bent.

But the real reason you should read the Kobayashi Maru is Ecklar’s stellar depiction of Montgomery Scott. She makes him both sage-like and impatient without crossing the line of “stereotypically hot-blooded Scottsman” and making Scotty seem incapable of doing other stuff besides engineering. He’s a capable man, but his passions run deep.

Rating
5 Smoking Simulation Bridges Out of 5

Coming Up Next
The next book in the Star  Trek Novel Project is Peter David’s Imzadi, which was the last of David’s books personally approved by Gene Roddenberry before he passed away. Roddenberry was keen to read it, and I go into the book knowing he never got to. A bit sad, but Imzadi is a serious book compared to the playful sense of hope in The Kobayashi Maru.

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Holiday Cheer: Captain Picard Sings “Let It Snow” — Hopefully not too much snow


picard snow

 

Alright, so the name of this song is a bit of a misnomer. It’s in fact Picard signing “Make It So” with additional vocals by the rest of the Enterprise crew. But, it’s still delightfully silly!

Don’t you want to be Christmasy now? This is the first year in a long time that I’ve been excited for Christmas. Having a more stable job means I’m not feeling the financial crush I was going through in previous years and I can finally slow down and enjoy peppermint hot chocolate.

There’s a crazy nasty ice storm headed to my area tonight. It’s predicted to be rough, but hopefully not as severe as the storm we had in 2009 that turned typically bustling Fayetteville, AR into a FEMA disaster area and a ghost town. The Fayetteville Flyer recently ran a story with pictures from that storm. They’re pretty scary, and capture just how empty the city felt when the ice started layering up to two inches thick in some areas.

I’m hoping this storm is just bad enough to lead to school closings but not enough that I go without power for three days. I don’t have a fireplace this year, which was instrumental in helping me survive the last wintery hellstorm.

While typing this, I’ve noticed the temperature drop several degrees in my office. Ugh, it’s going to be so coooooooooooooooooooold.

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Star Trek Craft Project #1: Bookmark!


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Title: Star Trek Cross-Stitch: Explore Strange New Worlds of Crafting
Author: John Lohman
Published: 2013
Series: All of them! You can make little pixel captain towels
Donated By: Paul Semel! Thank you so much

To go along with my Star Trek book reading, and after friend-of-the-project Paul Semel (you can find his work here because he’s a cool dude) donated a box of Star Trek goodies to me, I decided to play around with crafting as well as the novel reviews.

The first project I attempted was from John Lohman’s Star Trek Cross-Stitch guide. Inside you can learn how to make Borg cubes, embroider pillows and towels, and make super useful things like bookmarks. I am moderately competent when it comes to cross-stitch so I started with one of the bookmarks (and also because I suddenly have a shortage of things to mark my place with).

Lohman gives you very easy to follow steps for successful cross-stitching, but I found I’ve never really liked the whole “work from the inside out” aspect of the craft. No, I prefer to work in a straight line, or when I do shapes, make an outline before going back with the fill colors. It turns into a complicated process of counting hatches, making my lines pretty, and calculating how much string I can get away with waggling in front of my cat before he attacks me.

So the progress photos you see are not at ALL how you should cross-stitch, but as I’m fond of saying “ain’t no rules in the stitch.”

Overall: Lohman’s instructions are great for beginning cross-stitchers who want to learn to do this stuff correctly. He uses commonly found thread colors so you don’t have to search high and low for that brown-gray color on the insignia.

I highly recommend this to anyone looking to make cute gifts for the Trekkers in your life. I am going to attempt making 3D Borg cubes next.

Rating: 10 darkly adorable dead pixel crewmen out of 10.

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Star Trek Novel Project #2: Metamorphosis: The First Giant Novel


Data Face

This is the second installment in my ongoing Star Trek Novel Project where I seek out random Star Trek books and review them. I have a whole stack, and hopefully the next title will take a lot less time to slog through than this. You can read the first installment here

Title: Metamorphosis
Author: Jean Lorrah
Published: 1990
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Found: Goodwill for $0.50

Great explorations into the hopes and dreams of characters rarely turn out as planned, especially when writers are treading lightly between exploring those aspects while trying not to disrupt the overarching canon characters are involved in. Jean Lorrah’s Metamorphosis is a glimpse into what would happen if Data became human tries to pick up after the events of “The Measure of a Man” where Data wins a case regarding his sentience.

Data is not quite happy with the outcome of the trial in Lorrah’s interpretation. He’s pleased to continue to have control over his choices within Starfleet, but he begins to question how souls can be identified and realized, and doubt the ability for a artificially constructed being to have one. So of course the only logical narrative resolution to this conflict is to give Data what he has always strived for: Make him human.

I’ll be honest, I really did not like this book. It is the first in a series of “Giant Novels” which means it mistakes lengthy exposition for story telling in many ways. Due to the flippy-floppy nature of timelines within Metamorphosis, many scenes are repeated to show how one change in the flow of time can alter reality.

Mostly, you get to spend 250 pages listening to Data hate being human.

What’s the Deal?
Metamorphosis tackles the concept of humanity, dimension consistency, and the idea of having a soul. That means it arranges its time covering none of those topics in any real depth and leaves the reader thinking “why did I bother?” toward the end.

The real problem here, or at least my problem, is that Data is a very frustrating character in Lorrah’s eyes. He wants to be human so desperately, but when he has humanity, some seemingly insignificant action completely ruins his experience. Plus, becoming human means he alters the timeline of his reality, insuring a planet previously unknown to the story falls into chaos because he’s too fleshy to understand the real plight.

Data’s hung up on Tasha Yar, sleeps with a space mercenary, and realizes he didn’t learn anything useful in Starfleet academy. It’s an utterly frustrating and impotent story.

The Good
If you’ve longed to see Data become and fail at being human, Metamorphosis plays with your perception of what’s truly human and what it means to have a soul. What you’re left with is tired exposition left over from the episode where Data stands up for himself when he doesn’t want to be disassembled.

Sure, this should be the good section but I can’t really bring myself to say much good about it. There’s a lot of Data. That’s the good thing if you like Data, but if you find him to be a mildly intriguing character, Metamorphosis will almost certainly test your patience.

The Bad
Data cannot support a book on his own. He is a supporting character in most of his ventures. He might be a seductive proposition to Borg queens, a competent Sherlock Holmes, and even a dashing Irish lass, but he certainly isn’t strong enough to carry an entire story on his own.

The most intriguing part of this story concerns Data being ripped apart while strange demi-gods examine his inner most desires. Data’s skin is ripped off, his fears tested, and his capacity for love explored.

Still, this all seems hollow when the plot shifts frustratingly to a seeming genocide among an isolationist race called the Samdians. A people calling themselves the Konor (or those with souls) are massacring the Samdians for an unknown reason. Somehow, Data becoming human changed the whole outcome of this plight.

Should You Read It?
Only if you give a damn about anything I’ve said so far, or really like Data.  This book is unequivocally for fans of Data. Since I am not one of those, I find the heavy handed focus on the concept of having a soul, dimensional shifts, and genocide overbearing.

Given the setup for Metamorphosis, I’m not sure there is an outcome that would have pleased me. It illogically falls between two distinct plotlines within the Next Generation universe and flippantly dismisses any continuity errors with the idea that human Data existed in an alternate reality from the android one, but that distinction was only controllable by a god-like race on a planet overcome with electromagnetic fields.

Metamorphosis is just too improbable to catch your attention for extended periods of time. Given the time between my novel reviews, it’s clear that forcing my way through this book took an uncomfortable amount of time.

Seriously. Do yourself a favor and read something else. Unless you’re a big fan of the Data pity party, then this is the book for you.

Rating:
2 exposed chest sensors out of 5.

My next book is an original series classic focused on the Kobayashi Maru! It’ll be great (I hope) so stay tuned!

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Star Trek Novel Project Update #1: New Books and Crafts!


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I’m two weeks into the Star Trek Novel Project and already have enough books to fill the rest of year — if I were to finish a book a week, that is.

Today, I received a box of books from my friend Paul Semel that included two cool Star Trek craft guides. Because I can’t resist making a sock monkey Spock and cross-stitching into oblivion, I’m officially announcing the Star Trek Craft Project alongside my book reviews.

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Rather than reviewing the craft books, I plan to make an assortment of projects from both of them, taking pictures throughout the process. To start things off, I’m going to make a ton of bookmarks. I have a bad habit of losing bookmarks and right now I have someone’s business card (that I picked up during E3) wedged in a copy of Metamorphosis (my next STNP book) and feel a bit bad about that.

After that, I think I’ll make this delightful “He’s Dead, Jim” framable cross-stitch. The little bodies in the border are troublingly adorable. Also, Sassy says hi.

photo 4Thank you again, Paul. I will put all these books to use! If you would like to donate to the project, hit me up on Twitter (@vitiosuslepos) or through the comments on this blog. I hope to have my review of the TNG novel Metamorphosis ready by this weekend.

You might have noticed that there’s an Enterprise book in that pile. This means I will not only read it, but finally try to make it through Enterprise. I hated that series the first time, so, we’ll see how this goes.

 

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Star Trek Novel Project #1: Q-In-Law


q

This is the first installment of my Star Trek Novel Project, where I seek out random Star Trek books and review them. It’s going to be a bit rough at first but I know I’ll improve.

Title: Q-In-Law
Author: Peter David
Published: 1991
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Found: Salvation Army for $0.45

Have you ever wondered what might happen if Lwaxana Troi (ship counsellor Deanna Troi’s mother) butted heads with the smarmy, all-powerful Q? If you’re anything like me, you probably hadn’t considered it. But to hear writer Peter David discuss it, it was a common request from Trek fans in the early ’90s.

Lwaxana and Q are very formidable conflict points within the Next Generation. Picard is actively unnerved by Lwaxana’s pursuit of him while she’s in “phase,” and Q single-handedly put humans on the Borg’s radar. They’re dangerous characters on their own, so a story throwing them together would be undoubtedly eventful.

Q-In-Law is noted Stark Trek and comic book writer Peter David’s take on what might happen if Q and Lwaxana not only met, but were at all romantically involved. Set between the TNG eps Menage a Troi and Qpid, Q-In-Law explores the depths of love,  Q’s inability to get along with anyone, and what Romeo and Juliet would have been like in space.

What’s the deal?

Two rival houses of the Tizarin (space gypsies a bit like the Quarians in Mass Effect) are about to merge as the children of their respective leaders marry. The Enterprise is chosen as the site of the wedding, meaning representatives from Federation planets that have trade dealings with the Tizarin are gathering on the ship for the celebration.

The ceremony is actually a week-long party, something that Picard and crew come to regret as that means the overbearing Lwaxana Troi will be onboard that entire time. A week made longer thanks to her latest Betazoid custom of grieving for her daughter’s inability to marry.

Just as an uneasy peace settles over the Enterprise, Q shows up and starts delighting the Tizarin with stories and parlor tricks. When Picard attempts to kick Q off the ship, the Tizarin insist he stay as their guest.

Having been snubbed by Picard, Lwaxana takes an interest in Q, especially after damn near everyone on the ship warns her that he’s dangerous. Q, eager to cause mischief, starts up a strange friendship/relationship with Lwaxana and ultimately gives her the power of the Q.

The Good

As you read Q-In-Law, you can distinctly hear the voices of the TNG cast coming to life. Peter David has an excellent grasp of fitting dialog to characters, a skill that certainly comes in handy when you’re working in comics and not just words.

Capturing John de Lancie’s sardonic cadence is no easy feat, but you can hear every self-congratulatory and sarcastic syllable in David’s dialog.

The entire Enterprise crew behaves in believable, show-accurate ways that almost make you wish this story had been filmed. David gives real depth to sometimes throwaway encounters, and actually makes Lwaxana Troi a less infuriating character. In fact, you’ll likely find yourself cheering her on as she teaches Q a lesson he won’t soon forget.

The Bad

This might be my years of high school theater talking, but the moment someone tells me a story is based off a Shakespeare play, I actively avoid it. Predictably, Q-In-Law’s “star-crossed lovers” and their rival families eventually fall into all-out war, mimicking Romeo and Juliet in several ways. This wouldn’t have been too bad if the Enterprise crew didn’t spend the pre-wedding conversation talking about how glad they were that the Tizarin wedding wasn’t going to be anything like Romeo and Juliet.

David exacerbates this problem by having Picard quote the play in a stirring speech toward the end of the book. I prefer a bit more subtly to my Shakespeare references. Like, did you know 10 Things I Hate About You is based off the Taming of the Shrew? You probably did, but the references to the source material are present but subtle throughout the entire movie. If Q-In-Law had simply nodded toward the Bard rather than outright incorporating lines from Romeo and Juliet, it would be much more believable.

Of course, Q’s obvious interference in this conflict can explain the heavy-handed way the story shifts toward Romeo and Juliet. In his effort to test the boundaries of humanoid love, he falls into a predictable pattern he’s familiar with. Q is fairly competent when it comes to Shakespeare as well, a fact he tries unsuccessfully to wield over Picard in TNG episodes.

But, the most frustrating part of Q-In-Law isn’t its source material but the Deus Ex Machina finale. When you’re dealing with the Q, it is so easy to use that god-like power to solve your problems, and it is unfortunate that there was not a more reasonable solution to the blood-feud consuming the Tizarin.

Should you read it?

If you’re interested in a Q/Lwaxana story not written and published on the Internet, definitely. Peter David’s grasp of characterization and deep love of Star Trek makes Q-In-Law a quick read. If you don’t mind relying on overused writing tropes and subtle conflicts with Star Trek’s main canon, you’ll probably enjoy seeing Q’s best laid plans backfire spectacularly.

Plus, Lwaxana becomes a sympathetic character.

Score: 3 Jefferies Tube references out of 5. 

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