Archive for the ‘Consumer’ Category

[Amazon] Wooden train tracks

I was surprised a few months ago when my daughter asked me to buy her a train set. Train sets are more of a boy thing, I had thought. I myself had a small electric set when I was a kid and I was looking forward to getting back into scale model railroads when my son is a little bit older.


I went to a local Toys R Us and confirmed that my daughter wanted a wooden train set, similar to the Thomas the Train set that is very popular. I of course went to amazon to see if I can get something cheaper, and bought the above “compatible” train set and tracks.


Some things to note:

  1. [Train Car] Reasonably well made (out of wood), but the wheels have a lot of tolerance, so that there is a lot of play along the axle. This makes it a bit awkward to push them on the wooden tracks, especially at a switch/splitter track element (1 to 2).
  2. [Tracks] I didn’t have that much trouble assembling some simple track layouts, although a few pieces either did not fit others or it was a tight fit. These track pieces are mated as a ball and  U ends ( think of it like o] ), and the few pieces’ ball ends were sticking out too much to fit neatly in the “U” of other pieces.
  3. [Tracks] Most troubling was that this set of 100 did not have matching switch/splitter elements, only one particular type. These elements are 1 track into 2 (1 to 2). To make a classic double oval track layout you would need two types of switch/splitter elements. One will need to have the U at the 1 track end (1 : U) and the ball at the 2 track (2 : ball) ends. This set did not have the other set, 1 : ball and 2 : U. Note this is not a symmetry problem, you can turn the element over to get the orientation correct (left split or right split). But once you split the track into two, you will never be able to combine them again without the 1 : ball and 2 : U element. I will need to order another set specifically with those elements.

Amazon Associates

I’ve noticed that most of my non-food purchases have been on I’ve also started to create reviews on some of the products I have bought there, so I thought I might as well more directly tie my Amazon purchases to this blog.


I will only post on products I have bought and have actually used, and will try to be objective as possible.


Solar Powered MP3 Player

Quick note: the eMotion Solar PMP looks interesting! A solar powered media player (mp3, mpeg4, etc.) that has a built-in led flashlight and a usb charger. $169, so a bit pricy but something definitely worth considering.


Water Purification

Recent news articles reveal that there are trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in the water supply of most major cities. That, and the fact that in a year and a half I should be in a job that takes me to different cities in remote locations all over the world, have made me more conscious about the water I drink. My current living arrangements leave much to be desired, and I currently store a few gallons of spring water on my dresser table, transfer some amounts to plastic containers and cool them in the small dorm-fridge. While this may be overkill for the US, I have purchased the Katadyn Exstream XR Water Purifier bottle and will be trying it out for a few days. I have read reviews that the purified water has an iodine taste to it, which I would like to confirm.

As I said this is probably overkill for the US (although spring water apparently is also contaminated in some parts), but when I get posted overseas I will definitely be bringing this with me. A more in depth review in the near future.


Deceptive Web Retail Practices

It is the classic bait-and-switch, to show more inventory on your web site than you actually have in stock, I assume hoping that when the order is placed and the item becomes “backordered” or “unavailable” the customer will then buy something else that is in stock. Still, a pretty crummy business practice.

I want to highlight some stores that I have personal experience with that do this:

  •  (March 2007) I wanted to get a 1100mAh battery for my Cingular 3125 (HTC StarTrek) phone. Google has this first when you do a search, and indeed the website has it “in stock”. Once I placed the order the next day I get the following email:

Dear XXX,The item(s) listed below is/are currently back-ordered with a 1-2 weeks estimated time of replenishment. We will ship your item(s) as soon as available.

   QTY:  2
   ITEM: STAR161
   DESC: Cingular 3125 1100mAh Lith-Ion Battery


1800mobiles operations

       Then about a week later I get an email that summarily cancels the order, saying that the product has been discontinued or some such (I unfortunately deleted the email out of disgust). Of course, this product is still listed (as of April 2007) on the web site as available and “ready to ship.”

Beware of!