Jamberry Application Tools or Ode to the Rubber Cuticle Pusher

So when I originally ordered my first Jamberry nail wraps, I didn’t get any of the tools because I figured I could fake it with what I had, and also I am cheap.  And I did mostly ok on my own, and still ended up loving the product so much I immediately went out and became a consultant.  

But with my consultant kit came the Jamberry application tools, and I’ve used them for several applications, so I’ll give you my honest review of them.  (Yes, I make money on these things.  No, I won’t lie about them.)

The application kit comes with everything you see to the left.  Buffing block, orange sticks, file, rubber cuticle pusher, alcohol wipes, curved scissors, and nail clippers.  It also optionally comes with cuticle oil.  Now you may already own most of these things.  You probablyImage at least have scissors, nail clippers, and a file.  And that’s enough, really.  You DO need something to push your cuticles back, something which I’ve never done before but which makes the world of difference in both how your Jamberries last and how they look.

But I do like having the kit, because everything is together, and everything is new and shiny.  The buffing block really helps smooth out your nails prior to application and I also use it a bit for smoothing the end result.  The file is fine, although I’m personally addicted to glass files.  I like to start with the Jamberry (courser) file and finish with a glass file.  

The alcohol wipes are fairly useless.  Although it’s important to clean your nails prior to application, I find it’s best to do so individually, which is impossible with a wipe because it dries out too fast.  But I bet you have alcohol in the house, so it’s not a big deal.  I DO really like the clippers and scissors because they are SHARP.  The ones that have been in my house for who knows how long are NOT nearly as sharp.  These cut the wraps SO much easier than my old ones.  

But finally, we get to the real gem of the kit.  The Rubber Cuticle Pusher.  Now, you can use this little tool for pushing your cuticles and it’s not quite as effective as an orange stick, but it’s more gentle.  But the actual purpose of this tool is for applying pressure to your wraps after heating.  Otherwise you are pressing with your fingers, which are not really the ideal tools.  The Rubber Cuticle Pusher can apply a lot of pressure very precisely and can get right along the edge of the wraps to make sure you get a good seal.  It really makes application a lot easier and more effective.  

I like this thing so much I went looking for them in mass quantities.  You can find them on Amazon, but they want $5 for 2 pushers, which seemed a bit excessive.  So I went to Sally’s Beauty Supply looking for them.  Nope.  They didn’t have a single one.  (I’ve heard some do, but I am sure mine did not.)   Plus I discovered as a consultant I could order a bunch of them from Jamberry for a really great price!  So I ordered 24.  I told you I love these things.  I’ll be giving some away in my Jamberry Facebook group, so you should come join if you haven’t.

I didn’t understand the point of the optional cuticle oil, especially since oil weakens the seal of the wraps.  But supposedly applying the oil to your cuticles while wearing the wraps keeps your nails healthy and from drying out.  Some say it prevents peeling upon wrap removal, although I haven’t had any problems with that, and my nails are very weak normally.  I have applied the oil sporadically and can’t say whether or not it works, since my nails have been awesome.  But if you are worried about nail damage or have dry nails, you should try it.  But don’t apply the oil for the first 24 hours of wearing your wraps because it can weaken the seal.

Finally there is the Jamberry mini-heater.  Really you can apply heat to Jamberries any way you want.  Bonding requires heat + pressure.  Hair dryers work, but are cumbersome because you have to hold it in one hand and keep putting it down and picking it back up.  I used my iron as a heat source once, and it worked ok, but I did burn myself a bit. Image Plus that means I have to apply my nails in my sewing room where my iron lives.  Some people use rice bags heated in the microwave, although I haven’t tried this.

The Jamberry mini-heater is actually larger than I expected.  I sort of wish it was as mini as I imagined.  It’s about 7-8 inches tall and puts out quite a lot of heat. (Apparently, the optimal level of heat for the wraps. I’d say you need to heat them longer with other sources.) It’s hotter than my hair dryer.  The nice thing is that it sits on any surface and is hands free, which makes application easier.  Also, although you still have to plug it in, it’s easier to move from room to room than my iron.  So I’ve been using the mini-heater since I got it, and although it’s not necessary, it does make applying the wraps slightly easier.  So if you’re an addict who is going to be doing this a lot, I’d recommend it.



Next time on Kim talks about Jamberry products, I’ll soon be trying out their nail lacquers.



Video Game Review: Heroine’s Quest



In the midst of my health insurance crisis, there was one thing that made me feel a little better.  It’s nice when facing financial problems to find a really awesome game that is totally free.

I had heard of Heroine’s Quest in retro adventure game circles, but lost track of it.  Then I stumbled on it on Steam.  The game is an homage to the classic Sierra game series Quest for Glory (originally called Hero’s Quest, but changed after D&D sued them).  The Quest for Glory games are some of my favorite games ever.  They are hybrids of classic adventures and RPGs with traditional quests and random monster encounters.  I love the stats system of these games, since instead of earning XP and leveling up to increase your skills, you just practice them.  Need to get better at climbing?  Try climbing some trees.  Magic skills too low?  Practice your spells.  

Heroine’s Quest sounds like it might be some kind of statement piece about female video game characters, but actually it just means your player character is female.  End of deal.  No one even comments on your sex, they just call you heroine and move on.  Otherwise it’s extremely easy to believe you are just playing another entry in the Quest for Glory series.  It even includes lots of in-jokes for fans of the series.  The quality of the game is extremely high, absolutely up to the classic games.

There are a few differences from the QFG games, though.  Heroine’s Quest is set in Midgard, and the story revolves around Norse mythology.  Fimbulwinter has set in and Ragnarok is at hand, due to a frost giant’s machinations.  The game therefore includes a new problem to contend with: it’s freaking cold.  Your character can only be out in the snow for a limited time before they freeze to death.  The cold eats away at your stamina, making basic survival a challenge at times.  In fact, the game opens with your first task to find food before you starve, which is made more difficult by the fact that you can’t take much cold exposure.  My poor rogue died a couple of times before I finally managed to beg food off someone.  

It is possible to turn off the cold and hunger penalties by setting the game difficulty to easy.  I’ll admit that I did this at the beginning of the game because my rogue could barely walk around the woods.  I found there was a pretty big gap in difficulty between easy (which is actually way too easy: two hits and everything falls over) and the next step up, but eventually my rogue got skillful enough to handle combat. 

One fault I found with the game is that it doesn’t seem to have been designed for playing hybrid characters.  My first choice of character in QFG games is a magic-using thief, and although I was able to give my character magic and find some spells, I couldn’t use those spells in combat.  I also couldn’t complete some mage-only quests because I didn’t have access to the right spells.  So my magic ended up being useless.  

The thief specific activities were also really difficult.  I only managed to successfully pickpocket someone when I was about 90% done with the game.  Otherwise a fail is instant death, so that sucked.  Also they make it very difficult to burglarize any buildings by having guards and dogs outside all buildings almost all of the time.  If I hadn’t looked online I would have never gotten past them.

Another difference of this game from the classics is that all the NPCs move around all the time.  Which means that if you need a healing potion, oops the shop is only open at certain times of day.  I spent way too much time walking around waiting for people to be where I needed them to be to do what I needed to do.  Like, I need the thieves guild guy to be INSIDE the thieves guild so he can fence a stolen item, so that I have the money to then go to the potion store (the next day at the right time) to buy my potion.   It got annoying.  The end of the game got a bit tedious as a result of needing these kinds of specific interactions.  

But don’t listen to my nitpicking.  Overall this game is EXCELLENT and highly highly recommended for anyone who liked the Quest for Glory games.  And since it’s free I encourage others to try it out.   I’m looking forward to replaying as a mage at a later date.  (I never play as a fighter.  Hitting things is boring.)  

This also makes me really excited about the other QFG influenced indie games which are in the works: Quest for Infamy and Mage’s Initiation.

Video Game Review: Moebius: Empire Rising


Moebius: Empire Rising is the new adventure game from Jane Jensen, the woman behind the incredible Gabriel Knight games.  I’m a rabid fan of hers, so naturally when she launched a Kickstarter to fund her own game studio I was all over it.  

So I’m in the position of having been a beta tester on this game for the last year.  I’ve had a blast doing it.  Getting each new chapter was so exciting.  So I haven’t actually played the final version of the game yet.  I’ve played parts of it several times, in different versions, and I’ve played the whole game in pieces.  But there are little bits I haven’t seen and there was some roughness in the versions I played (though a lot less than you’d think.)   I’ve downloaded my copy of the final game and played about the first 20 minutes of it, just to see what the final version looked like.  

So, the first thing to keep in mind about this game is that despite the fact that it’s made by one of the big names in adventure games, it’s an indie game developed on a small budget.  The game uses the 3D engine of Phoenix Online Studios, another indie studio.  It’s an ok engine, but it’s not going to win any awards for being state of the art.  The graphics of Mobius, therefore, leave a little something to be desired, IMO.  The backgrounds are gorgeously painted.  They’re realistic, but more colorful, prettier than photorealism.  My problem with the graphics is with the 3D character models.  They just are awkward and always a little off.  The arms and legs are too thin, the shoulders and totally weird…they kinda squick me in an uncanny valley way. Graphics, in my opinion, are one of the least important aspects of any game when it comes to quality, so I’ll shut up about them.  But like I said, there’s a tendency to forget this is a small budget game, but there are still little imperfections that will remind you.

So what is the game about?  The main character is a man named Malachi Rector (yes, really) who appraises antiques.  He’s basically the Sherlock Holmes of the antiquities world, using his massive intellect and observational skills to spot forgeries at a glance.  He’s also a total misanthrope and pretty much a total bastard.  It was entertaining during the beta process to see people become annoyed with the character for being too unlikable.  I think it’s a brave storytelling choice to have your main character be, essentially, a total ass at the beginning of the story.  It’s a starting point with the potential for real character growth and discovery.  

Malachi gets hired for a job by the mysterious pseudo-government agency FITA.  His job is to investigate modern day people and determine if they match any important figures from history.  The main idea behind the plot being that history repeats itself and people essentially match certain archetypes across different times in human history.  It’s obviously a difficult to explain premise, but one that has the advantage of being totally unique.  The entire situation is only slowly revealed over the course of the game, so I don’t want to spoil anything here.  

In the course of his investigations Malachi meets a man named David Walker and ends up hiring him as security.  Much of the character and emotional content of this game revolves around the developing relationship between these two men as they get to know one another and better understand what the hell is going on around them.  

The gameplay is pretty standard for a classic point and click adventure, although it’s fairly light on inventory puzzles compared to the classics of the golden age.  Instead there are two different unique puzzle interfaces (oh, actually make that three by the end of the game) that recur throughout the game.  The first is the way in which Malachi observes people (and sometimes objects) when he encounters them.  You’re give an image with several highlighted areas.  You have to select the area and then choose the conclusion that is correct.  For example “Her clothes are worn” and you select “she has low income.”   Sometimes these choices are really obvious, other times they are more obscure.  There’s no penalty for being wrong except you have to try again and you’re not told which selection is incorrect.  This interface underwent several revamps during development and I think it works really well now.

I’m not as happy with the other analysis interface.  When Malachi has to compare his subject to historical figure to determine if there is a match, there is a complex interface that compares the people across several data points.  The problem is that it’s very simple to see who the correct answer is very quickly so there’s no real challenge to these analyses.  I’m pretty disappointed that this issue was never solved, although some things were tweaked to slightly improve it.  But since this task is so plot centric it’s kinda a let-down that it’s so easy.

I think that will be a main complaint of adventure gamers about this game: it doesn’t offer enough challenge.  There’s a difficult middle ground between too easy and too frustrating and what you think of this game will probably depend on your gaming experience.  Personally, I’m here for the story, so I don’t care all that much.

As for the story, there are some really interesting things in this game.  The characters as they are slowly revealed and the developing friendship and trust between Malachi and David are really fascinating.  The mysteries of the plot are also revealed on a slow time-table.  That’s kinda the feel of the whole game.  It’s a leisurely introduction to these characters and this world and these ideas.  I like the pacing and that it doesn’t feel rushed.  Unfortunately it means that this game just feels like an introductory chapter, the first in a long series.  I was left desperately wanting more.  Some may consider this fairly unsatisfying if they expect a complete and finished story.   

It very much reminded me of the first book in an intended lengthy urban fantasy type series.  It does make me a little nervous, though, since it’s a lot more difficult to get game sequels and series made than novels.  I feel like I NEED more of these characters in my life, because I’ve just gotten good and attached to them.  Hopefully Jane can make that happen.  It was pretty obvious that she intended to make more Moebius games when the subtitle “Empire Rising” was added to this one late in the process.

Also, I have a code to share with you for 20% off this game for the next two weeks at the Phoenix Online Store.  Use code CSGMOEB20OFF to get your discount.  The game is also available through Steam and GOG, but without the discount.



Anime: Planetes



In my constant search to have something to watch or listen to while I sew, I have just finished rewatching the anime Planetes.  (Planetes is Greek for “wanderer” which makes the title make a little more thematic sense.)  This series is one of my favorite animes, and it’s one that not many people have seen.  

It’s a slice-of-life sci-fi show about a group of  in the year 2075 who clear space debris.   They are essentially space trash men with the lowest status in their company.  The department is a refuge for misfits whose wacky character traits give the show much of its humor.  

The main character, at least at the beginning of the series, is Ai Tanabe, an idealistic young woman who is just starting at debris section.  As the show continues much of the focus shifts to Hachirota “Hachimaki” Hoshino, her senpai, an irascible young man who dreams of owning his own spaceship one day.  

While both a slice-of-life anime focusing on character stories and a comedy, the show also tackles a lot of serious issues.  It’s got a very philosophical core, and stories about topics such as death, war, poverty, class, suicide, and terrorism are common.  

So it’s a must watch for anyone looking for intelligent and thoughtful storytelling.  I also recommend it for fans of hard sci-fi and those who, like me, get lots of feels from stories about realistic space exploration.