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Author Archive for Janet Cloninger

Belkin Qode Thin Type Keyboard Case for iPad Air review

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I’ve reviewed a lot of keyboard cases for iPads and iPad minis in my day, but I’m always game to try another.  I find that some are pretty uncomfortable to type on and some do very well for an undersized keyboard.  Then there’s the Belkin Qode Thin Type Keyboard Case for iPad Air, which is a surprisingly wonderful keyboard.  What makes it so great?  Well, almost everything! Read More →

Keyport’s DEVGRU Camo Slides benefits Homes for Our Troops

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I received an email from Keyport asking all their customers to help them raise awareness of Homes for Our Troops, which is a “privately funded national non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization committed to helping those who have selflessly given to our country and have returned home with serious injuries since September 11, 2001.”  HFOT raises funds, community awareness and involvement, building materials, and professional labor so that specially adapted homes can be built and given, mortgage-free, to these Heroes.  These houses give the injured Veterans and their families a safe, suitable home to begin rebuilding their lives without the long-term financial burden of paying for a house.

To support wounded Veterans and the HFOT organization, Keyport will be giving a portion of their sales of the DEVGRU Camo Slide and the USA Slide, and the USA, Digital Camo, and Woodland Camo Side Plates.  You can get yourself a nice key organizer and help our Veterans as they heal and rebuild their lives.

Keyport asked their customers to spread the following message:

@theKeyport donating a portion of specific product sales to @HomesForOurTrps to build homes for our injured #USA #heroes. #ThankYouIsntEnough

Don’t settle for a boring mouse. Get the full Spectrum with this Satechi mouse!

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If you’re tired of your boring white or black mouse but you can’t decide on a new color, get the Satechi Spectrum Wired Optical Mouse and get all the colors!  The mouse has an ergonomic design that’s comfortable in the hand, and it has 1000dpi resolution for precise mousing.  It may look white in some of the pictures, but it’s a shiny chrome mouse that will look nice on your desk.  Turn on the LEDs for a little visual spice; the LEDs will cycle through seven colors, or you can lock it into your favorite (at the moment) color, or you can turn off the lights when you feel like being a little more subdued.  The wired optical mouse is plug-and-play, and it’s compatible with Windows or Mac computers.  It’s small and light enough to throw in your gear bag, and it works great in your office.  The Spectrum Wired Optical Mouse is available at an introductory price of $24.99 at Satechi and Amazon.

The latest Tokyoflash Japan watch uses its words to tell you the time

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Instead of interesting graphical displays, the latest Tokyoflash watch uses a word matrix to tell you the time or date.  The words needed to display the information flash on the face of the Kisai Kaidoku Wood watch, so you don’t have to learn to decode a pattern to tell the time.  As a matter of fact, the word “kaidoku” means decode.   The watch has a stainless steel case and a custom-made wood body and strap.  It’s available in dark sandalwood with a blue LCD, red sandalwood with a green LCD, or maple with a purple LCD.  The Kisai Kaidoku Wood watch is available from Tokyoflash Japan at special release price of $109 for 48 hours, until Friday, July 31, 2014 at 11am Japan time.

Turn any light bulb into a WiFi-connected bulb

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This Kickstarter project gives you the tools to turn any dimmable light bulb into a WiFi-controllable bulb.  You don’t need hubs, and getting your house connected is as easy as signing the bulb into your router.  The emberlight is a screw-in base that you can use with any of your current light fixtures or lamps and with any dimmable light bulb, including incandescent, halogen, and dimmable CFL and LED bulbs.  Using an app on your iOS device or Android device with Bluetooth LE, you’ll be able to control emberlights to turn on when you and your Bluetooth LE device enter the house or room, operate on a program, or turn them on/off from anywhere in the world.  You can control a single light, all the emberlights in a room, or all of them in your house with just a couple of taps.  You’ll need an account to access and control your lights, and you can grant access – permanent to your household members or temporary to guests – so they can control your emberlights, too.   (For security, people who have access to control your lights will need to set up their own accounts.)  The funding period ends Friday, September 5, 2014 at 1:45 AM EDT.  A pledge of $45 gets you own emberlight, and there are other levels that provide you with up to 10 emberlights for $399.  The funding goal has already been exceeded; shipping is expected in February 2015.

Tailgate or camp with the comforts of home

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It hardly seems possible, but it’s only a few weeks until my daughter leaves for college – and that means football and tailgating season isn’t far behind.  And of course, it’s still summer, so it’s still camping season.  Why should you have to rough it while participating in either outdoor activity when you can take along the Picnic Time Portable Reflex Travel Couch?  The Reflex is sized to seat two adults, and it has four backrest positions from flat to fully upright.  It has a steel frame, polyester exterior, and a high-density interior foam padding for comfortable seating.  The armrests have pockets to hold your phone or beverage.  It measures 45″ X 23″ X 3.5″ flat or 45″ X 19.25″ X 13.5″ in the upright seating position, and it folds up to 27.75″ X 7.25″ X 23″ for transporting.  It even has a detachable shoulder strap for easy carrying.  You can place it on the ground or on the tailgate of a truck, or you can even use it in your house or dorm room.  The Picnic Time Portable Reflex Travel Couch is available in blue, black, or red for about $120 from Amazon.

This tiny Bluetooth speaker is big on design and features

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The EDGE Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker and Handsfree Speakerphone is a tiny little cube that’s only 2.6″ on a side, but it’s loaded with functionality.  The 2″ speaker inside the cube produces 3W of sound for music, movies, games, and even phone calls.  A 3-hour charge of the  built-in lithium-ion battery provides about 5 hours of sound.  The Bluetooth speaker is compatible with any Bluetooth-enabled phone or tablet.  It has about a a 30-foot range, and it has a built-in microphone so you can use the EDGE as a speakerphone.  The speaker looks like an exploded cube, with lights behind the “cracks” that serve as accent lighting or a nightlight while the speaker is in use.  The control buttons make use of these “cracks” to hide the control buttons to keep the design sleek and minimal.  The EDGE Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker and Handsfree Speakerphone is available in white only for $49.99 at Pyramid Distribution.

Feeling too lazy to hold your tablet? Let the LazePad hold it for you.

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Have you ever fallen asleep with your tablet in your hands and woken up when the tablet falls out of your hands and smacks you on the nose?  I have, more than I care to admit.   With the LazePad case, you can sleep easy without fear of a bruised nose or a bloody lip from falling tablets.  Just pop your iPad or other tablet in the easel stand, and it can sit safely on your chest or mattress while you read in bed.  It also makes a nice hands-free stand for working at your desk.  The LazePad is made of an ultra-dense but soft rubber that protects your iPad by gripping the sides when you slide it in the channels.  (The information at the LazePad site mentions that it works for “tablets”, but then they specify that it’s designed for iPad 2/3/4.  I imagine those iPad models fit snuggly into the holding channels.)  The LazePad is suitable for adults and children, and its anti-static properties prevent static shocks from damaging the tablet, when even some younger users may not know how to protect against static.  The LazePad is available in black, blue, or pink for $54.99.

Here’s the perfect projection screen for the tiny, power-saving home theater projector

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If you are thinking about replacing your big, power- and space-hogging flat screen TV with a tiny projector like Chris Haynes did, you are probably considering what you can project the image on for the best picture.   You can just project it onto a white wall, but that doesn’t give you the best picture, and it means you’ll need to leave that wall space empty.  Buying a projection screen means you’ll either have to find a place to store it out of sight when you’re not using it, or you’ll end up with one permanently attached to your ceiling.  With the 120″ Spandex Projection Screen, you’ll have a piece of fabric that folds up to fit in a shoe box and attaches in seconds to hooks in the ceiling that are almost invisible on a white ceiling when not in use.  The screen is made in the USA of the “highest-quality Micro-Supplex material” that stretches out to remove wrinkles for a smoother viewing surface. It measures 9′ X 5′, fits 16:9 aspect ratio images, is 3D DLP compatible, has an approximate gain of 1.0, and is even suitable for backlit projection.  You’ll get two sets of hooks for use in two rooms, and there’s nothing to build – just screw in the hooks.  The 120″ Spandex Projection Screen is $84.99 at Amazon.

You want to dress like Captain Picard? Make it so!

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This jacket is as much like the original jacket worn by Jean-Luc Picard in the Star Trek: The Next Generation show as it can humanly be.  An original, screen-worn jacket that’s been preserved by a private collector was used as the pattern for this replica.  Synthetic fabrics were carefully color-matched to the original, and details, like the quilted shoulders, were carefully reproduced in microsuede.  It has a full front zipper, satin lining like the original, and a hidden interior pocket to store your wallet without ruining the lines of the jacket.  The Star Trek The Next Generation: Picard’s Jacket is officially licensed and is available in sizes Small through 2X.  It’s available at ThinkGeek for $299.99.  Now all you need is a communicator badge ($14.99 at ThinkGeek)!

Udemy probably has lessons for anything you want to learn

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What do you want to learn more about?  How to program or start your own business?  How to take better pictures, decorate a cake, play a musical instrument?  How to dance or do yoga?  Udemy can provide you with classes on all these subjects – and many more.  Udemy is an app for iPhone or iPad, and there’s an Android version on Google Play.  The app itself is free, and some of the course content is free, but you’ll have to pay for most of the course offerings.  Once you’ve purchased a course, it’s available to you 24/7, so you can learn on your own schedule.  You can make your way through the lessons at your own pace, too, and you can even slow the speed down or zip through it at 2X speeds (on iOS only at this time).  You can even save courses on your device for offline viewing, to make best use of your time when you’re commuting or away from internet access.  There are thousands of classes to choose from, and prices vary by course.  Download the free Udemy app to your device and start browsing for your interests.  It’s never too late to learn to code, or play the guitar, or …

You can even cook in this emergency preparedness kit

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This survival kit is expensive, but it has 25 life-saving items inside a box that you can even use to cook in.  The SOLKOA Survival Kit for Best Made is stored in an 18.75-cubic inch box machined from a single block of aircraft grade 6061 aluminum.  The box can be used for cooking or for boiling drinking water.  It’s held securely closed by a rubber gasket and Velcro strips.  Inside you’ll find a variety of tools: emergency blanket, duct tape, fishing kit, sewing kit, steel wire, thread line, and Kevlar line, multi-tool, first aid supplies, waterproof matches and a fire starting tender kit, signaling mirror, saw blade, and more.  You can see the complete list of the contents at Best Made.  The SOLKOA Survival Kit is available at Best Made for $170.00.

Replace your big screen TV with a tiny black box

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My fascination with tiny houses and micro houses continues, and I saw a home theater system in one of the small homes that would work equally well in bigger spaces.  I was watching a video made by Derek Diedricksen for his Relaxshacks website in which he toured the small house built by Chris Haynes of Tiny Home Building.  I won’t go into the surgery that Chris did to convert the components to run off his solar-power system, but the important thing is that he combined a small Bluetooth speaker with an Apple TV and later with a Roku 3 box, and fed the signal out through a small projector he got at Brookstone.  His home theater projected a 50″ image on his white wall, and the entire setup used less than 19W of power – far less than flat screens on the market today.  

If you are interested in this setup, it seems that the projector Chris used was probably the Compact 85-Lumen Pocket Projector, which is still available at Brookstone.  It’s just under 4″ square X 1″ thick and half a pound.  It has a rechargeable battery, so it’s portable, and the 3800mAh battery doubles as a USB backup battery for your mobile devices.  It accepts 1080p and 1080i video input, and it connects to most smartphones, tablets, computers, video players, cameras, and other sources with an HDMI cable.  It has built-in speakers, but it has an audio-out jack if you’d rather use your own speakers like Chris did.  It can project an image up to 80″ (diagonal), and it has a “mega-bright LED lamp that projects up to 85 lumens for up to 2 hours on a single charge.”  The Compact 85-Lumen Pocket Projector is $299.99 at Brookstone.  

Check out Derek’s YouTube video with Chris and his cute dog, Ajax, then go read more about tiny houses at Relaxshacks and Tiny Home Building.

Protect yourself with the pd.id: Your Personal Drink ID

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My daughter is leaving for college soon, and I reminded her of two things:  1) She’s too young to drink alcoholic beverages, and 2) never drink anything at a party or gathering unless she broke the seal on the bottle or can herself and it has never left her hand and her direct sight.  Too many women fall victim to date rape because someone drugged her drink, and the founders of pd.id want to do something to stop it.  Using their backgrounds in medical technology and in designing, implementing, and supporting highly available systems, they started with drug testing technology that has been available to drug enforcement agencies for years, and they developed a small, portable, personal device that can quickly check the safety of a drink.  You dip the pd.id sensor into your drink, and it evaluates the drink using three separate tests and compares the results against a database of known drugs.  An LED on the pd.id will quickly light to let you know if your drink is safe or not.  You can use the pd.id over and over, until the battery needs recharging.  (And of course, it’s ready to use again after recharging.)  You can also use the pd.id in tandem with an app on your phone, which will “access an extensive database of drink profiles and alert you with a text or call that your drink has been tampered with.”  (It is compatible with iPhone 4 and newer, some newer Androids, and Blackberry 10.)  The databases can be updated to be sure you have the latest information to best protect yourself.  They are seeking funding for the pd.id at indiegogo.  A pledge of $75 gets you one pd.id.  Funding continues until August 29, 2014 (11:59pm PT).  They are attempting to raise $100,000 with this flexible funding account (meaning they will collect all pledges even if the goal isn’t met);  shipping is expected for April, 2015.

Carry a camera tripod in your pocket

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You’ll always have a tripod when you need it if you carry a Bottle Cap Tripod in your pocket.  The bottom is a stretchy, rubber socket that fits on the top of most any kind of water or soda bottle.  The top is a standard tripod mount that works with any camera with a tripod socket on the bottom, but you’ll find it works best with lighter point-and-shoot cameras, and the bottle needs to be at least half full.  (Don’t want to risk that multi-thousand dollar Nikon camera and lens combination with a 16-ounce water bottle…)  The camera socket rotates 360-degrees and pivots up to 15-degrees in any direction.  The Bottle Cap Tripod is $10 at Photojojo.

Add a little bit of sunshine to your room with the Happy Sunflower Lamp

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The Happy Sunflower Wall Lamp will add whimsy and light to your child’s room.  The kit consists of a circular 10.8″ wall lamp with a face design on it and a collection of stickers to form the petals to turn the lamp into a potted sunflower.  (The stickers are easily removed.)  The fixture uses E14 bulbs, which may be a European standard, and a universal power supply.  The Happy Sunflower Wall Lamp is $26.00 US from DinosaurLifeStyle.

A cure for the fat house cat

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If your cat doesn’t do much more than lay around the house and sleep or eat, she could probably benefit from some exercise.  My cat, Rio, used to get her exercise at 3:00am, dashing around the house like a crazy thing, determined to wake up everybody in the apartment building I lived in at the time.  If you’d rather channel your cat’s energy into something a little more neighbor-friendly, you probably have looked at exercise wheels for small dogs and cats.  Those are usually big and bulky and cost around $500 or more.  One Fast Cat has developed a better, cheaper version of the cat exercise wheel, and they have turned to Kickstarter for funding.

The One Fast Cat Exercise Wheel is easily assembled in about 10 minutes without tools, and it’s quiet and nice looking enough that you could even place it in your living room.  It doesn’t require power, other than what Kitty will provide.  It has a 48″ diameter to protect the cat’s back, and its 10″ traction surface is wide enough for sure footing.  It’s made of recycled plastics, and it’s sturdy and lightweight so you can move it around in your house or take it outside and hose it off when it’s time for a cleaning.

For a pledge of $199, you will receive a One Fast Cat Exercise Wheel with your choice of a black, blue, green, or red traction surface.  No need to wonder if the project will meet its funding goals;  they’ve already raised over $115,000 in pledges and far exceeded their $10,000 funding goal, with 16 days left in the funding period.  It’s available for shipping within the US only, and shipments are expected to begin in September, 2014.

A minimal TV remote control for the tech phobic

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I’ve seen one of those funny, captioned pictures you so often see on the internet with one of those big, multi-buttoned TV remotes that some one had fixed for their grandmother to use.  They had taped over every button except for the power, channel up/down, and volume up/down so their less than tech-savvy family member couldn’t get themselves into a setup screen from which they couldn’t watch TV – necessitating a tech service call to the family’s go-to person.  If you provide tech service for the family and have someone who just can’t handle the multi-function remotes, or perhaps you have a child who likes to use the remote during their allowed TV time, then you may want to order a couple of Tek Pal TV remotes.  Hedonics calls this the “easiest to see and use universal remote on the market.”  You’ll use a simple four-step automated setup process to program the remote for virtually any TV.  The remote has only a few buttons, big enough for even older eyes to easily see:  power, mute, volume up/down, channel up/down.  The Tek Pak Simplest TV Remote is $24.99 at Hedonics.

Always be prepared with the M48 First Aid Kit

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M48 is known for tactical and survival gear, and part of your survival gear should be a good first aid kit.  M48 has created a First Aid Kit, and ThinkGeek has them.  They’ve packed 56 necessities, like hand sanitizer, gauze and bandages, elastic bandages, antibiotic, gloves, sterile sponges, and more, into an 8″ X 5.25″ X 3″ box.  You can stash the box in your office, car, home, or even a gear bag – where ever you might need one.  The M48 First Aid Kit is only $19.99 from ThinkGeek.

BookBub helps you build your ebook library with free or low-cost books

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Regardless of which eBook device or app you use or which store you purchase from, BookBub can help you obtain books at discount prices or even free.  BookBub doesn’t sell books themselves.  They just “simply alert you by email to fantastic limited-time offers that become available on retailers like Amazon’s Kindle store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, Apple’s iBookstore, and others. Book publishers offer deals at these sites for promotional purposes, and our staff works with them to determine the best ones to feature to our members.”  Joining BookBub is free;  you just sign up for a free daily email.  You specify the genres you’re interested in, and BookBub does the rest.  They send a daily email featuring the best “ebooks ranging from top-tier publishers to critically acclaimed independent authors” that will interest you.  Sign up at BookBub and start building your library and discovering new authors and free or reduced-price books.

Breathe clean, cool air in your personal space

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Most air filters are designed to clean the air in an entire room, but the Satechi USB Portable Air Purifier and Fan cleans your personal space at home or in the office.  When collapsed (bottom, left image), the fan  “removes ultrafine particles to provide a clean personal environment. Unpleasant odors are removed, as well as small particles such as dust, pet dander, allergens such as pollen, and other debris.”  When you open it up (upper, right image), the Satechi works as a fan to circulate the air without filtering.  The device is small (4.3″ X 4.3″ X 3.5″, 12 ounces) enough to take with you in your gear bag for use at the office or in hotel rooms.  It’s USB-powered, so you can use it anywhere you have a USB port to plug into, even in your car.  Regular price is $49.99, but Satechi is offering the USB Portable Air Purifier and Fan for $39.99.

The new Gabby doll from Chatsters™ will be your daughter’s new best friend

This post brought to you by Walmart. All opinions are 100% mine.

 photo 778988086179_20065763_Chatsters_GabbyDoll_NEN_Product_1_zpsb9befe70.jpgYears ago when my nephew was a toddler, Teddy Ruxpin was the ultimate in animated toys.  Old Teddy groaned and ground his way through a few eye movements as his lower jaw moved a bit while a cassette played.  There was no interaction with Teddy; you just sat and listened as he “told” you a story.  He was more a novelty than a companion for play – a little more than just a cassette player for books on tape.  He was pretty amazing for the time period, but today’s kids are used to more sophisticated toys and would find him boring.  Kids now are used to using tablets; they get a reaction to their actions, and they expect to be an active participant.  Read More →

Amazon introduces Kindle Unlimited – a subscription service for book lovers

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One of the perks of being a Kindle owner and an Amazon Prime member was the one free book you were allowed to “borrow” each month.  With only one free book, it could take you a long time to try out new authors you’re interested in without having to risk some of your book budget on something you might not like.  Yesterday, Amazon announced Kindle Unlimited, a subscription service that gives you unlimited access to 600,000 book and to 2,000 audiobooks from Audible with Whispersync for Voice.  You’ll also receive a free 3-month subscription to Audible, which will give you unlimited access to more than 150,000 audiobook titles not included in the Kindle Unlimited service.  Of course, you’ll still have access to “all the great Kindle features customers love such as Whispersync, Popular Highlights, X-Ray, customer reviews, and Goodreads integration.”  You’ll be able to access this content across all your Kindle devices and your Kindle reading apps for iPhone, iPad, Android tablets and phones, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, PC, Mac and Windows 8.  You’ll always be able to pick up your book right where you left off on any Kindle device or reader you own.  And you’ll be able to easily switch from reading an eBook to listening to it with Whispersync for Voice.

Kindle Unlimited service is $9.99 a month, charged to the 1-Click credit card or another credit card you have on file with Amazon.  Subscribing to Kindle Unlimited doesn’t require you to also be an Amazon Prime member.  You’ll continue your Kindle Unlimited membership until you adjust your account settings to cancel.  You may cancel your subscription at any time.  To get you started, Amazon is offering you a free month’s subscription.  Learn more about this subscription service and get started on your free month at Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited page.

QVC has a LePan Mini Android tablet for $100, for today only

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The Today’s Special Value from QVC today is an 8” LePan Mini Android tablet for $99.96.  Features:

  • Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
  • 1.2GHz MTK M8125 Cortex A7 quad-core processor
  • 8” (dia) capacitive multi-touch screen, 1024X768 resolution, IPS display
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB internal memory, expandable with microSD card
  • Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS module, 3D G-sensor, E-compass
  • Cameras: 5MP back camera with auto-focus, 1.2MP front camera
  • Access to Google Play

While supplies last or until 11:59pm ET today (July 18, 2014), the LePan Mini tablet is $99.96 at QVC.

 

Signal your intentions with the Biking Glowes

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Bicycles don’t usually come with lights on them, and the add-on kits are usually either reflectors or lights that just alert drivers that someone is cycling in front of them.  During the day, you can use the hand signals you learned in driver’s ed classes to indicate when you will be making a turn, but hand signals can’t be seen at night and bikes don’t usually have blinkers.  With this kit and your own gloves, you can make a pair of Biking Glowes (not a typo) that give hand signals a new meaning.  The DIY kit comes with LED beads, conductive thread, coin cell batteries and holders, and instructions.  Once assembled, you’ll just make a fist to complete the circuit and hold out the proper hand to signal your intent to turn.  The DIY Kit Biking Glowes is available from the onesip shop on Etsy for $33.00.  Get a couple of kits for each biker you know, so they can have some lightweight gloves for warm weather and some warmer gloves for winter.