'Home is not an object. It is not fixed. Any perspective you have on your home is the distance you are from it.'
- Leonard Cohen

Products

Portable Power for your phone

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Dec 03, 2016
Category: Gifts and Gadgets

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THE WEEK IN BUTLER
Churchill
Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
A Christmas Carol
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THE 2016 HEAD BUTLER HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: 48 suggestions, with 13 inexpensive stocking stuffers, some delightful curiosities, and a few big ticket items. Click here.

THE 2016 GIFT GUIDE FOR KIDS: 100% non-digital suggestions. Click here.
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A phone in the pocket for a full day is a problem — the charge runs out fast.

The solution: an AmazonBasics Portable Power Bank. This device, which is about the same size as a Samsung Galaxy S3 and just a smidge thicker, is a veritable tower of power. Plug it in at night — it takes 6 to 8 hours to reach full charge — and you can use it to charge an iPhone (4-5 times), Nexus (4.1 times), Galaxy S5 (2.6 times), the Galaxy Note III (2.3 times) or an iPad (once.) It has two ports; you can charge two devices at a time. Note: It will not charge the Microsoft Surface. Cost: $23.99. [To buy the AmazonBasics Power Bank, click here.]

Cool features:

The Power Bank has 4 LED lights that tell you where you are in the charging process: active charging, charging complete, charging of a connected device, your remaining battery power. It has an on-off option that helps you conserve energy; without it, the battery would run down.

Can you charge the battery and have the battery charge a connected phone at the same time? No. And you can’t override it. When the battery pack is being recharged, it turns off both USB ports. And it doesn’t weaken quickly if not used. It will hold a full charge for about a week.

Less cool: Most buyers do flips for the battery pack. But it’s not Apple-quality. Some buyers report getting a broken battery pack. Others complain that it fails after a month. My take: You roll dice.

Want a smaller power supply? Right here.

Short Takes

The sequel Graham Greene didn’t write to “The Quiet American”

Graham Greene knew a good story when he saw one, and an interracial romance in Saigon in the early 1950s was just right for a story of intrigue, betrayal and violence. He wrote that story in The Quiet American. It’s a story that Danielle Flood knows very well — it’s the story of her parents.

Danielle’s mother was Vietnamese. Jim Flood, her father, was an American foreign service officer. But Flood wasn’t really her father — when her parents married, her mother was pregnant with a British officer’s baby. As Danielle would come to understand, much, much later, “I am a sequel he [Greene] never wrote.”

Her memoir, “The Unquiet Daughter: A Memoir of Betrayal and Love,” is the full story. It’s especially strong in the first half, when Danielle is young and living with her mother, who was “beautiful to the point of inconvenience.” Her mother had rich lovers and often left her daughter with babysitters; one was a stripper. Later, although her mother would have breast implants and dance in men’s clubs, she kept her daughter ignorant of sex — she was one unbalanced piece of work. Flood: “I was almost 32 the third time my mother lied to me about who my father was.”

Danielle’s childhood is Dickensian. She dreams of college, but her mother has her working at a tender age, and exhaustion is her daily condition. Jim Flood, based in Washington or points unknown, calls rarely and doesn’t offer financial support. Somehow Danielle gets noticed, begins a career in journalism and becomes Someone. She tells her story without self-pity, and I turned the pages of those years with a mixture of admiration and horror. [To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

Danielle marries, has children, is almost happy. But she’s a relentless reporter, and she tracks down her real father and starts a loving relationship. She also looks for closure from Jim Flood, who is either an unfeeling shithead or a classic case of Borderline Personality Distorder — I vote for BPD. I wish this memoir ended earlier; the second half reads like a self-published book intended for a handful of readers. But the first half? OMG. Great.

Young man in New York: Will work for salary

Hi. I’m Henry Lewers, a 26-year-old theatrical music director, accompanist and pianist, just arrived in NYC to pursue my life-long dream of playing in a Broadway pit. While I’m auditioning, I have to pay the rent — which means I’m open to just about anything, from one-time gigs to regular jobs. I’d love to play for your holiday party, coach you for your audition, transpose a score, or teach piano to your kid. But I’m also ready to buy your groceries, hang out with your children after school, organize your photos, solve a problem with your laptop or iPhone, or walk your dog. Jesse can attest: I’m trustworthy and kind, highly organized and motivated. Visit my website or write me at lewers.henry@gmail.com.

How Does That Make You Feel? True Confessions from Both Sides of the Therapy Couch

Sherry Amatenstein is a New York City-based licensed clinical social worker. She’s written 3 three books on relationships. Now she’s edited “How Does That Make You Feel? True Confessions from Both Sides of the Therapy Couch,” with essays by 13 therapists and 21 patients. “I wanted to humanize shrinks to the shrunks,” she says. “I wanted patients to see that therapists are neurotic as hell, too.”

Her contributors — they include a noted screenwriter and a writer for “Seinfeld” — are just as honest. “Has my drive been solely about proving to my narcissistic [Jewish] mother that I am indeed worth her sagging labia?” one writes. A woman whose parents sent her to a pedophile therapist, writes about her mother: “She never met a boundary she couldn’t or wouldn’t cross.”

Most of these essays are more heartfelt than shocking; they not only provide a valuable window into therapy, they give us an appreciation for the process. This includes Amatenstein’s reason for becoming a therapist: “My father was at Auschwitz and had to watch his parents and little sister walk away, knowing they were going to the ovens. My mother was sent to a work camp. I never knew my grandparents.” So she grew up hearing other people’s pain and wanted to ease their suffering. This book helps. [To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

A delicious new guide: “Shop Cook Eat New York: 200 of the City’s Best Food Shops”

I’ve scoured New York in search of exotic and esoteric food suppliers for 60 years, but a woman from France who’s lived here only a decade makes me feel like a first-time tourist. Nathalie Sann and photographer Susan Meisel set out to find 200 of the city’s best food stores, and in “Shop Cook Eat New York” they’ve done just that. Some were obvious: Katz’s Deli, Murray’s Cheese Shop, Magnolia Bakery, the shops on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. But the majority of their favorites are real finds. Like Arcade Bakery (it’s hidden in the lobby of an office building), which makes the best ham-and-cheese sandwiches in town. And Harlem Shambles, my favorite butcher (the name is from Corinthians: “Whatever is sold in the shambles, eat, asking no question for conscience sake”). And Andrews Honey, which attracts bees on 50 rooftops, including the Waldorf-Astoria. And SOS Chefs, a favorite find of mine. The writing is brisk and stylish (“Lobel’s is the Fabergé of meat”), the photos are crisp, and Sann enriches the book with 27 field-tested recipes. A great resource for New Yorkers, an obvious gift for visiting foodies. [To buy the book from Amazon, click here.]