New cars, the best lighthearted home accents, tip of the week, the Internet, and for those who have everything ...

New cars: What the critics say

Road & Track
Volvo waited 10 years to hop onto the SUV bandwagon. It gave a family wagon all-wheel drive, medium off-road capability, and “higher ride height for better outward vision.” This “un-SUV” has more of the unexpected—a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission, greater chassis rigidity, an ergonomic instrument panel, and—an industry first—an adjustable booster cushion for children in the back seat.

Montreal Gazette
The cabin design also makes a “dramatic leap,” with “nifty” air-conditioning controls and a redesigned menu to monitor the onboard computer and navigation systems. The exquisite interior is “the best ever offered from Volvo.” Options include ventilated leather seats, heated rear children’s seats, and walnut trim. The 3.2-liter, 235-hp inline six delivers a much better powertrain than its five-cylinder, 208-hp turbocharged predecessor.

Family-friendly additions include snap-in rails to contain cumbersome cargo, a wider tailgate, and extra hooks and nets. Safety has been improved, with extended side-curtain air bags and five grades of steel in the unibody. The Haldex all-wheel-drive system delivers 95 percent of the transmission’s thrust to the front wheels in normal driving, and 65 percent to the rear wheels “when the going gets tough.”

The best ... lighthearted home accents

Add some style, and humor, to a room with one of these “new and amusing” designs, said The New York Times.

Buddy Throw blanket
Made from wool and synthetic materials, this 6-foot-long throw “offers the illusion of companionship.”
Price: $139
Contact: Charlesandmarie.com

This hollow plastic pet provides a place to corral “unruly cables.”
Price: $200
Nomad System
Small panels of recycled cardboard—available in green, gray, or white—can be assembled into larger structures. Two dozen will create a 12-square-foot wall or partition.
Price: $56 for 24
Contact: Mioculture.com

Tip of the week ... how to replace an out-of-date device

* Get specific. If you know the exact model number of the product you’re looking for, finding it will be considerably easier—online or off. “A UPC code can’t hurt, either.”
* Work backward up the supply chain. Start with retailers, then contact suppliers and wholesalers. If all else fails, get in touch with the manufacturer directly.
* Haunt the outlet malls. “Plenty of home-goods retailers and electronics manufacturers” have outlets around the country. Or check out their online equivalent, Overstock.com.
* Know when to give up. Devices
get harder to replace, and repair, after they’ve been discontinued for a while. The price also may rise markedly. Ask yourself, “Just how badly do you want that Commodore 64?”

And for those who have everything …

Days-of-the-week pillboxes are so analog. The InforMedix Med-eMonitor regulates medication with robotic flair. “If a patient doesn’t take crucial meds on time, this pillbox alerts a central server that sends relatives a voice or text message.”
Price: $50 plus $60 per month
Contact: Informedix.com
Source: Popular Science

The Internet ...
sites for giving back

Experienced businesspeople can be valuable on nonprofit boards or simply as volunteers. But few know where to start.
* Guidestar.org is an ”online national database that describes nonprofits’ missions and includes financial statements,” so you can check up on organizations before you donate or volunteer.
* Volunteermatch.org matches potential volunteers with more than 50,000 affiliated nonprofit organizations. “Search by area or interest.”
* Boardassist.org matches potential board members with nonprofits in need, using a “personal approach similar to corporate recruiters.”
* BoardnetUSA.org, “run by the Volunteer Group, a Manhattan-based nonprofit with 30 years of experience,” is an online service that allows users to search through more than 2,000 nonprofits nationwide and sort them by area of interest and needed skills.
Source: Financial Times
Source: The Wall Street Journal


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