Archive for the ‘Wallet Watching’ Category


Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Unless you’ve been living in a sensory deprivation chamber, you’ve probably heard of the Sham-Wow.  You know, those super towels that apparently soak up gallons of liquid, save you from ever having to purchase rolls of Bounty again, and, judging from the cool enthusiasm of Sham-Wow pitchman Vince, can pretty much save the world and cure leprosy and dishpan hands.  Don’t get too excited.  I’m not reviewing the Sham-Wow, exactly.  Technically.

I usually try to avoid purchasing anything “as seen on TV.”  I had a bad experience with a Rainbow Brite record album back in 1986 and then again with some Time Life books as a young teenager in the early 90′s.  These events pretty much cemented my family’s deeply held belief that things ordered off television are instruments of the devil.  The deviiiiiiil.

Of course, there was no contingency for the physical “As Seen on TV” aisle in Target.  Oh yes.  All those BumpIts, Slap Chops, and Strap Perfects that were easily resisted on the small screen are suddenly so much more accessible in person.  And of course, there are the Zorbeez.

Zorbeez towels are essentially twin to Vince’s Sham-Wows, except they’re hawked under a different name by the late, exuberant Billy Mays.  Clad in his iconic blue shirt with a vocal volume cranked to 11, Mays said it like he meant it.  It’s hard not to put at least a little faith in someone who extolled the virtues of a product so, well, loudly.

So yes, I paid Target ten big ones for my pack of Zorbeez.  And I was really, really keen to put them to the test.

Photo Credit: Gwen Feldman

Photo Credit: Gwen Feldman

I ripped open the Zorbeez pack as soon as I arrived home.  I filled a coffee mug with tap water, and upended it over my kitchen floor, as you’ll see in the photo to the right.  I added the fish net to create a more cohesive, aquatic theme.  And because well, I was sort of bored and it was there.  (For some reason, the fish net is Willow’s favorite toy; it’s not unusual to see her stalking around my flat with it (quite elegantly) clenched in her teeth, and we tend to find it everywhere.)

I didn’t include the next photo, which was simply the first view of the large Zorbeez towel placed over the puddle of water and fish net.  It wasn’t that exciting.  The real test was about to begin.

Photo Credit: Gwen Feldman

Photo Credit: Gwen Feldman

Pressing the Zorbeez into the puddle of water, I half expected to hear a giant sucking sound as the towel defied physics and hoovered up the mess in a flash (and perhaps a few squares of my tacky kitchen linoleum for good measure).  Instead, the towel just got really, really wet.  And to my dismay, the floor stayed that way, too.  I poked at the Zorbeez.  I swished it around some more in the minor lake I had created.  The water simply spread further across the floor.  In the photo to the left, you can see that the towel is a sodden mess.  It’s difficult to make out the water on the floor because well, I took the snapshot with my Blackberry and it’s not exactly National Geographic approved gear.

Unwilling to accept defeat, I referred to the instructions, which I hadn’t read before, because who reads directions to use a towel?  Oddly, there was something I overlooked; apparently Zorbeez only perform to their full potential of they are dampened first.  Yes, I see the inherent flaw in logic there too, but I was dumb enough to purchase the Zorbeez in the beginning of this wet disaster.

I repeated the experiment but misted the next towel with a spray bottle before plunging it into the water.  The results were equally abysmal.  In the end, the only towel up to the task of drying my floor was my oversized bath towel that I bought freshman year in college.

Upon closer scrutiny, I noticed something interesting about Zorbeez shammies.  They seem to be made of really cheap felt.  Remember when you were a kid in preschool, learning about weather, mittens, and brushing your teeth?  Chances are that your teachers used felt boards to illustrate these concepts with pre-cut, felt objects placed on the boards.  These towels were made of the same stuff, though I honestly think they’re not even story time worthy.  Hold them up to the light, and you can sort of see through them.

While felt is a great tool to teach the uninitiated, I can’t see it used to suck a liter of cola out of berber carpet.

I gave Zorbeez one last chance tonight.  We’ve been a little lazy here at the Apply Yourself Product Lab, and the resulting Giza-sized pyramid of dirty dishes has been nothing short of pants-wetting-terrifying.  He washed.  I dried.  I attempted to use my Zorbeez shammy towels.

Again, I tried both a regular, dry Zorbee (is that the singular form?) and another that was pre-misted with water.  I saw no difference in performance between towels.  At first, I thought that maybe the dry Zorbee was actually absorbing water from my ceramic bowls, but it turned out that I was just holding the dinnerware too closely to myself and it was rubbing against my sweatshirt.  Yes, my hoodie was more effective on my dishes than the Zorbeez.  There was no difference on plastic, Pyrex glass, or metal.  The Zorbeez failure was officially epic.

I haven’t quite figured out if there is an alternative use for my Zorbeez.  Hang them from the ceiling in lieu of Tibetan prayer flags?  Too ghetto.  Cut into smaller squares for coasters?  Wouldn’t go with my decor.  Sew into clothing for Willow?  I’m pretty sure that’s animal cruelty.

I have a feeling my Zorbeez will be collecting dust next to my copy of The Fountainhead and the Fairy Tarot Cards I bought ten years ago.

Would I ever recommend Zorbeez?  Only if I really, really didn’t like someone.

Potential Cash Saver – Screw the Gym

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

I remember how easy it was in college to stay in shape.  As a member of the varsity women’s fencing team, I got at least three hours of exercise four times a week, plus all day fencing meets on weekends.  It was a no brainer – I had fun and never had to worry about things like calories, carbs, or scales.  Ah, the folly of youth.

A year ago I signed on to a trial gym membership.  I dutifully went almost every day, loved it, and then forked over a substantial sum to become a member.  I can count on my fingers the number of times I went back.  Because just like everyone else, I too am dumb.

I can’t afford a gym membership now, and I’ve proven that I wouldn’t use it like I should, anyway.  Seeing that I don’t know a bench press from a french press, I wasn’t sure what to do.  Jog?  Eh, I live in the city.  Bike?  Can’t – my bike was stolen.  Lift weights?  Sure, if I knew what to do with them.

Well, I do have a Wii.

Yes, a Wii is not the cheapest device out there.  It’s an investment, in a sense.  I decided to put it to work.  For around $50.00, I bought the EA Sports Active Personal Trainer kit.  Along with the workout game for the Wii console, the kit was complete with leg strap for the Wii nunchuck and resistance band for muscle training.

photo credit:

photo credit:

I started off with the 30 Day Challenge (I’m in week 2 now) and I was very pleasantly surprised.  The program is structured by two days of working out and one rest, repeat ad nauseum.  Per average workout, expect to run in place, kick box, lunge, and resistance train.  You’re guided along the way by a chirpy virtual personal trainer who is encouraging but is also quick to correct your form (with some help from the sensors in the Wii controller, which you hold in your hand, and the nunchuck, which is strapped to your right leg).  My trainer may get on my nerves, but I couldn’t do the workout with out some guidance.

You can select your level of impact and difficulty, and there are customized sessions beyond the aforementioned 30 Day Challenge (haven’t tried those yet).  My plan is to start slowly; I’m beginning the 30 Day Challenge on easy, and when that’s done I’ll do it again on medium and then again on hard.  I’ll post updates as I go along.

So far, I think this program has a lot of promise.  While it’s too early to really see much in terms of results, my aching arms, legs and back are testament to the fact that something positive is going on.  Really, I’m in pain.  And I can really feel the workouts.  When I’m done with a 25 minute session I’m left sweatier than I ever was at the gym, and I’m definitely sleeping more soundly at night.  In short, I think I’m on to something.

Does this completely replace the gym?  It’s too early to tell.  I can say this, though – I’ve used my EA Active Thingie more than I went to the gym when I was a member.  There’s absolutely no excuse for me to eschew working out when I can do it in the middle of my living room with bed hair.  I can even put the Pixies on my stereo and have Apply Yourself‘s mascot Willow cheer me on with extreme disinterest.  The point is, I’m now active, when I was happy to watch Buffy reruns when I should have been on the treadmill.

Fifty bucks is roughly twenty percent of what I paid for a year of gym membership, and I got nothing out of it.  With this kit, I’m more aware of my body, how I move, and I’ve even been inspired to cut meat out of my diet (I discovered that I actually really love tofu).  I’m healthier, I think.

To me, EA Sports Active is better than a gym, because I can afford it.  The initial investment of the Wii is steep, I know, but it’s much easier on the wallet than forking over a ton of cash to join the ranks of gym rats.  This is really something you can do at home, on your own, and in the long run, it’s a very economical choice.  It’s innovative enough that I felt it deserved a place on this blog.  If you can stick with it, it very well could be the perfect DIY home based workout.