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Rube Goldberg Machine ContestIf you've ever seen Back to the Future, played a game of Mouse Trap or watched a recent OK Go video (particularly "This Too Shall Pass"), then you've seen a Rube Goldberg Machine. These creations are elaborate, generally ridiculous machines that are crafted for the purpose of accomplishing a mundane task... like brewing a cup of coffee or feeding your dog. Rube Goldberg has been called "the grandfather of S.T.E.M." due to the enduring legacy of his iconic illustrations. Goldberg was a Pulitzer Prize-winning engineer and cartoonist, and his "invention cartoons" were the blueprint for countless contraptions that now bear his name. In 1988, things became official with the start of the RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINE CONTEST®, originally as a college competition. Three decades later, the annual contest encourages student inventors from across the country to create the best machines that they can, and for the 30th Anniversary, the 2018 contest came to a conclusion in Chicago.

I'm not exactly the most fashionable guy, and that's something that I've been known to admit on an increasingly frequent occasion. When it comes to just about anything, I'm more interested in solving a problem... accomplishing a task and making sure that things do what they claim to do. I get pitched a lot of products here at Rock Father HQ and what you see in the midst of these virtual pages is just a tiny percentage of what comes in. Tech and fashion share a lot in common in that a lot of the pitches that come in just don't serve any real purpose - they're just more... stuff. And when it comes to the ever-growing world of phone accessories, much like fashion designers always seem to be borrowing "inspiration" from someone or somewhere else, I don't see a lot of innovation and that bores me to the point of losing interest, hence I don't cover a lot of it. There are exceptions, and one recent product that arrived here for review and cut through the clutter is Monet. So what exactly is a Monet? 

With two little girls here at Rock Father™ HQ, my wife and I have purchased more than a few pairs of "kid-safe" headphones over the past few years, and frankly, most of them are garbage. From expensive ones that the kids find uncomfortable to the cool-looking, yet terrible-sounding licensed variety sold for cheap at retailers like Five Below, I've checked out a bunch and had never found any that I could really be excited about until now. At New York Toy Fair, I came across something unexpected while browsing the latest offerings from the crew over at Wicked Cool Toys. They've recently partnered with Halo Acoustic to help bring CozyPhones to a wider audience, and after bringing a couple of pairs back to Illinois, they're an immediate hit. CozyPhones are a 3-in-1 combo of headphones, sleep mask and a stylish headband.

The feature is brought to you in collaboration between Blackboard™ and The Rock Father™

For a guy whose entire life revolves around a digital presence, I tend to be notoriously old-school when it comes to my tools of the trade. In an age where many work on tablets and multi-purpose screens, I still prefer to do the majority of my work from a desktop pc with a mechanical keyboard them emulates the typewriters of old. Sure, I use a laptop for working on-the-go, and I've got an arsenal of tablets in both iOS and Android flavors, but for me nothing beats being in my office, in the chair, ready to work within my comfort zone. Even here, there were some very non-digital quirks until recently - in fact, until the summer of 2017, I kept my monthly calendar on a dry-erase whiteboard (I finally switched to Google Calendar at my wife's urging), and was apprehensive of cloud storage for my backups, my habits remaining in a physical world. Likewise, I've always had an attachment to writing - actual writing - in a true form, and until recently, there was no way to bring that into a digital world... but that changed. A product I didn't even know I needed came my way - Blackboard™ by Boogie Board - and now old-school meets new-school in a way that just feels right. It's Liquid Crystal Paper™, and there's nothing else like it.

The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

It's been more than eight years since my wife and I first became parents, and despite writing about gaming often, it wasn't until this year that I finally got to start spending some real time blowing up some pixels again. I upgraded from the Xbox 360 (which I still have) to the Xbox One S, promptly jumping right back into the kind of military-themed action I used to enjoy. After all, when it comes to fall, that means Call of Duty Season is open, but when I bought my system it came with Battlefield 1. Thing is, it's difficult to blow stuff up good when there's two little girls and a wife sleeping upstairs, and that means headphones. For the task at hand, I've got the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Surround Sound Gaming Headset

Updated 10/23/17 - We're in day four of the #TwitterLocked situation, with more and more users coming forward with similar tales...

Original Story: It began on Friday, October 20th - hot on the heels of an announcement that Twitter had unveiled a new timeline for its efforts to combat online trolls, bots and stifle abuse on their platform. Unsuspecting users - potentially thousands of them - woke up to find their accounts locked out for "exhibiting automated behavior that violates the twitter rules." After resetting via a code on the app, they would immediately be locked out again, at which time twitter would make an automated phone call to provide another code. Once the account was unlocked, users reported losing some of their followers, but more concerning - they had lost the complete list of who they were following... a complete reset to zero. Most of the users affected did not appear to be breaking any rules, nor were they posting any offensive materials. Many of those who found their accounts locked were bloggers and members of the media. I know about this first-hand, as I was one of them.

It's not too early to be thinking about the holidays, and when it comes to gift-giving for tech-savvy kids, the folks at KD Interactive have a full suite of products that are worth of a look! Join The Toy Insider this Friday, August 4, for the #KDInteractive Twitter Party taking place from 11am-12pm ET for a chance to win some of the hottest new kid's tech! The Kurio Watch 2.0 Smartwatch, Kurio Snap Camera, Kurio Next Tablet and Aura Drone will all be featured as The Toy Insider shares information on each, along with serving-up chances to win! You must RSVP to participate: http://bit.ly/KDIntRSVP

Presented in collaboration between The Rock Father, BOSEbuild and Life of Dad

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “summer slump” - that mid-year break between the end of one school year and the beginning of another. While I’ve long-said that kids don’t have enough of a summer break, even a matter of weeks is enough to break the cycle of learning, and that can be troubling. As parents, it’s up to us to make sure that those curious young minds are still learning during the summer months, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities are a great tool to have. For those with kids curious in how things work, BOSEbuild has just the project - and it’s so much more than simply “building a speaker.”

Thursday, February 23 2017 07:07

Home Surveillance: Catching Mischief in the Act!

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The Rock Father™ has partnered with EZVIZ and Life of Dad for this feature.

There’s that old saying about “getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar.” Well, in 2017, I don’t actually know too many people that actually have a cookie jar that holds cookies (there are some cool display pieces out there), but there are certain ways to interpret that, both literal and figuratively. Let’s just go with the fridge, for example. My wife and I have reached a point with The Rock Daughters™ where they collaborate on shady endeavors - the kind of mischief that is apparently normal for kids rapidly approaching the ages of five and eight. One such habit is swiping food, and it tends to be yogurt (not cookies) that’s the object of desire. They sneak into the kitchen like little grifters - an “Ocean’s Two” of sorts, checking to see if the coast is clear before cracking the fridge. Thing is, if daddy spies on them, it becomes a little more difficult.

Tuesday, January 24 2017 22:20

Making a New Year’s Credit Resolution...

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The Rock Father has partnered with Life of Dad and Capital One for this campaign. All opinions and experiences are that of James Zahn.

As we’re into the midst of January and just a few weeks into a new year, there’s been more than enough time to think about the future. I’ve said it before, but I’m not one to make “New Year’s resolutions,” and there’s a lot of reasons for that, starting with the fact that “New Year’s” is among my least favorite holidays, and I can’t explain why. I get an uncomfortable vibe about it, perhaps because I don’t like “Auld Lang Syne,” and the thought of being with all of those people in Times Square makes me feel claustrophobic. Most “resolutions” are made to be broken, so I make goals instead - though this year I’m actually breaking my own rule by committing to a resolution that I actually made some years back: a “Credit Resolution.” One powerful tool in my arsenal is CreditWise® from Capital One®, and not just because I’m already a Capital One customer (anyone - customer or not - can use it!), but because it’s a free and easy-to-use tool to help me maintain and improve my credit score. It’s something I resolved to do for my kids, and there’s a story behind it…

Thursday, October 13 2016 01:55

Zoobe Launches Sanrio Partnership with HELLO KITTY...

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For being as immersed in tech as I am, I'm not a big "messaging" guy. I'm not a fan of the text-speak, I just started using emojis, and when it comes to GIF reponses, my defacto is The Emperor from RETURN OF THE JEDI with "GOOD, GOOD." above it. That said, quick-text GIF stories are all the rage right now, and I've even seen some of my daughters' little friends (I still shudder to think that these kids are the "under 10" crowd) breaking them out.  So what's the new one I expect to see getting a lot of use in the months ahead? The Hello Kitty StoryGIF App is a solid bet, the first release to come from Zoobe Message Entertainment's partnership with Sanrio.

AVG LogoThis post is brought to you in partnership with Life of Dad and AVG.

With the fall season officially here, the calendar has flipped to my favorite season of them all. The crisp autumn air comes with shorter days that make way for earlier, and seemingly darker nights that are filled with mystery. There’s just something about fall that brings a feeling that you never know what might be lurking in the shadows... especially as Halloween nears, and if superstition is to be believed, the lines between good and evil grow perilously thin. In the virtual world, there can also be unsavory creatures lurking in the depths of our devices, those who slipped through the cracks during visits to the internet that could’ve been better protected. Thankfully, the folks at AVG have a full suite of products available to protect your valuable gear from unseen evil…

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