My name is Russell Newquist. I am a software engineer, a martial artist, an author, an editor, a businessman and a blogger. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and a Master of Science degree in Computer Science, but I'm technically a high school dropout. I also think that everything in this paragraph is pretty close to meaningless. I work for a really great small company in Huntsville, Alabama building really cool software. I'm the owner and head instructor of Madison Martial Arts Academy, which I opened in 2013 less to make money and more because I just really enjoy a good martial arts workout with friends. I'm the editor in chief of Silver Empire and also one of the published authors there. And, of course, there is this blog - and all of its predecessors. There's no particular reason you should trust anything I say any more than any other source. So read it, read other stuff, and think for your damn self - if our society hasn't yet over-educated you to the point that you've forgotten how.
There are no men like me. There is only me.
First, I’m a freaking vampire. I wear sunglasses almost all the time when I’m outside. I’m not quite that guy who wears them even in the dark. But I’ll wear them even when it’s cloudy, especially if it’s that nasty kind of cloudy that almost feels like every way you look is glare. I have sensitive eyes, and it’s actually painful to not wear them. I spent most of my life wearing glasses with special UV coatings. Then I had LASIK done. I’m pretty sure my eyes just adapted to having the UV coating. So now I wear sunglasses.
But I’m also kind of bad about losing them. Every 12-24 months or so I’ll lose a pair of sunglasses. Just poof, gone, no idea what happened to them. But I’m not quite as bad about losing them as I seem. My third problem exacerbates the issue: I have four children. My oldest is about to turn seven. In those seven years, my children have broken about three times as many pair as I’ve lost.
In short, I go through a lot of sunglasses.
Until now, my solution has been to always buy the dirt cheap sunglasses from Wal-Mart. If they won’t survive long anyway, at least I’m not spending much money on them. I usually spend between $15 and $20 a pair, depending on current prices, and buy about 1-2 pair a year. So it’s not a ridiculous expense. At least I’m not spending $300 on a pair of Ray-Bans.
Enter Shady Rays. I became aware of the company through Twitter ads. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever bought anything based on a Twitter ad. But this goes to show you how important it is to find your audience. I was the right guy – the absolute right guy – to respond to this ad. The ad was simple and pushed two things:
I saw the ad a few months ago. All I needed to do was wait for my last pair of sunglasses to die. About six weeks ago, they did. My 10 month old daughter broke them. Snap. So I dug up the promo code and hit their web site.
I found the sunglasses pictured above, which approximately resemble the style I’ve been getting for some time. I punched in my discount code for two pair, entered my credit card number, and opted to pay $6 for expedited shipping. Hey, man, my eyes were hurting. And it was only six dollars. If I’d chosen slow shipping, it would’ve been free.
The fine print quickly informed me that there is a limit to their replacement guarantee. They will only replace any individual pair of sunglasses twice. So with my two purchased pair, that would mean a limit of six sunglasses total. Also, it’s unclear if I will have to pay shipping costs for replacement pair or not. I suspect that I will have to. Unless shipping costs are outrageous, I can probably live with that. Worst case, I’ll still be paying about the same per pair of sunglasses as I’ve been paying.
A few days later my two pair of sunglasses arrived. And I can tell you this: they’re far sturdier in build quality than the cheap sunglasses I’ve been getting. They’re quite comfortable, especially after a few days to break them in. I have yet to break or lose a pair, so I can’t yet tell you how well they live up to their promises. But I can promise you that with my history I will break or lose a pair within 24 months. When I do, I’ll give an update and let everyone know how it goes. Worst case, I got two new sunglasses for approximately the same price as every other pair I’ve bought in the last five years – but with better build quality. I think these will take longer to break – although perhaps not to lose.
And so far I’m extremely happy with these sunglasses. They have a wide range of styles, so odds are good you can find a pair you like. If you’re in the market for new sunglasses, you might want to check them out.
For Christmas last year we bought our kids a Kindle Fire Kids Edition. It seemed like the perfect thing. We could download movies to it for them to play in the car on long car trips. It had some games. It had some specific kid related apps that looked great. The parental controls seemed good. And best of all, it comes with a rubberized protective case and a lifetime guarantee – Amazon will fix or replace it for life if it breaks, no matter how.
Now, I should say that I’ve had great experiences anyway with Amazon customer service. I had a second gen kindle that broke because my oldest son stepped on it when he was two. I flat out told Amazon that that was what had happened. They replaced it for free anyway. I called them about our regular Kindle Fire once when the screen had cracked and told them that another kid had damaged it. They told me that they would have replaced it for free… except the warranty had expired. Fair enough – I just figured I’d try that time, since they did it the first time. So I have a great love of Amazon’s customer support, and this product’s lifetime guarantee seemed perfect.
Unfortunately the product itself is a worthless piece of shit. Pardon my language, but it really is that bad. We bought the 8 GB wi-fi only (no cellular data connection) model. A quick check of my Amazon history shows that this product has been discontinued. That’s good – it never should have been available in this configuration.
[Update: I was incorrect. The exact model we bought is no longer available. There is still an 8GB model. If you must buy a Kindle Fire Kids Edition, do not buy the 8GB model.]
The 8GB of on board memory is literally not enough for anything. Two or three apps filled it up. We found ourselves having to buy a new SD memory card for it almost immediately just to make the product remotely usable. Unfortunately, even this didn’t really help. You still have to be careful to download apps to the SD card – a subtlety that was completely lost on my six year old son. We were constantly helping them wipe the memory clean so that they could continue to use it. The device would fill up memory literally until it broke.
It gets worse, though. For some reason that I completely can’t fathom, many of the apps want to re-download themselves when run. This doesn’t happen on every run. But it happens about every day or three. If you aren’t connected to the internet, the app simply doesn’t work. Since we bought this partly for car trips, this made it completely worthless. But it’s still worse even than that. The downloads are slow, and it doesn’t stop you from doing something else while it’s downloading. So imagine a typical four year old child. She pushes the app. Nothing happens. So she picks another app. Nothing happens. Then another and another and another. Before long, there are eight apps downloading and the entire machine has come to a standstill.
The newer generation models may be better. And I generally love Amazon. But this product was a complete waste of money. I would have had a better experience paying $139 for somebody to punch me in the face.