My favorite things

  • January 18, 2017

This is a list of my favorite things. I will try to keep it updated as time goes on. To qualify to be on the list, there is only one requirement: I must be reminded of how awesome the product is every time I use it. There is an internal voice that says ‘damn I love this thing’. I put the things into two categories, Super Favorites and Favorites.

Super Favorites – these are things that I would replace immediately if I lost or misplaced.

  • Kindle Paperwhite ($119) – I hard sell virtually everyone I meet on the amazingness of the Kindle. It is a life-changing device and no I am not kidding. It helps me sleep and also gives me the opportunity to read a lot more.
  • Desk hammock ($10) – I don’t remember where I first saw this thing but it’s great. Back when I was a banker, I modified my desk to give me more foot space and I put a box under it that allowed me to prop up my feet during the day. Now I have a foot hammock specifically designed for the same purpose! It’s cheap and gives me a good stretch while I am sitting. I wish I sat less during the day but until I can get a standing desk or get away more, the foot hammock offers some very healthy variety.
  • Sunrise Alarm Clock ($130) – Waking up to light instead of an audible alarm is a game changer. Back in high school, I went through an elaborate home automation process to enable a gradual crescendo of light to act as my alarm. It was awesome and ever since then I have used some form of a sunrise alarm clock to get me up. Now I am using a borrowed Biobrite unit but if I had to buy one, I would probably buy the Philips unit linked.
  • Logitech G600 Gaming Mouse ($45) – Productivity is my jam and this mouse is a key tool for me. It is meant to be used for gaming but I program it for general productivity purposes. It has 12 programmable thumb keys plus a ring button modifier to allow for 24 programmable keys. Plus, you can enable the mouse to have software profiles which will switch the hotkey definitions based on the program that is currently active. It is extremely customizable and it allows me to do a ton of shortcuts with just my mouse. Aside from the programmable keys, the mouse is extremely precise and is wired so I don’t have to worry about latency/batteries/glitches.
  • Lenovo Thinkpad Compact Keyboard with Trackpoint ($54) – This is my daily driver keyboard attached to my desktop. It is basically the keyboard from a Thinkpad but as a standalone unit. I loved the keyboard in my Thinkpad so much that I bought an external keyboard for my desktop. I am also one of those rare people that use the Trackpoint (the nub) mouse instead of a trackpad. I hate trackpads. Using a Trackpoint is incredibly fast since you don’t have to move your hand off the keyboard. It takes a little getting used to but now I have used one for 10+ years. It is worth learning! With this keyboard and the G600 mouse, I have a mouse on my keyboard and a keyboard on my mouse, effectively. It’s a powerful combination! For those wondering, the reason I still have an external mouse is that certain programs are very challenging to use with just the Trackpoint. A real mouse offers better control for graphics and CAD work that the trackpoint can’t achieve. For general usage, the Trackpoint works great. I seamlessly switch between them and don’t think about which one to use for which purpose. The other benefit for the Trackpoint is that it is much more ergonomic. Using a mouse with the right hand way out to the side creates a lot of shoulder problems. Most people have terrible neck, back, and shoulder pain because of the ergonomics of the computer setup.
  • 24″ Dell Ultrasharp Monitor – At least one big monitor is critical, and it needs to be elevated to eye level. I don’t understand how people work all day on a laptop! If I work on a laptop for more than a couple of hours, my body is toast. These days, a 24″ monitor is the minimum and it should be IPS with a resolution of at least 1920 x 1200. For me, color accuracy is important as well. Dell’s Ultrasharp line has always had extremely solid reviews and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending them. My current workstation has a 27″ 4k Dell monitor in the center and a 24″  Dell Ultrasharp to the left in portrait. Occasionally I will move the portrait monitor to the other side to even things out. I don’t think the 4k monitor was worth the money but I got one and it’s alright.
  • Airpods ($159) – They are awesome, simple as that. The press and early reviews have been less than stellar but the more I use the Airpods, the more I question those people’s ability to review electronics. Truth is, these are a game changer. I think the audio fidelity is better than the wired earbuds and the microphones are even better. Hard to believe but that’s my experience. The fact that they don’t have a wire and sit in my ears effortlessly makes them so much more convenient when I work with my hands or are moving around. Bluetooth performance has been great. The battery life is fine and since you ALWAYS put them back in the case when not in use, they are constantly charging. I also don’t have to do the spaghetti dance like I do when pulling the wired earbuds out of my pocket. Note, I generally use these for phone calls and podcasts. Obviously, they aren’t going to compare for over-ear cans for music but they still sounds as good, if not better than the wired earpods.
  • Podcasts (free!) – Podcasts aren’t something you need to buy (yet!) but they are without a doubt one of my favorite things. There are some incredible podcast shows out there and they provide an extremely high level of quality for no cost. I find the podcasts that I listen to regularly just as interesting and stimulating as any other sort of media, and they are free and can be listened to while on the go. The podcasts I regularly listen to are The Tim Ferriss Show and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin. Occasionally I will listen to episodes from a bunch of others that are very good including Radiolab, This American Life and Creator Lab. Even listening for ~10 hours a week, it is still hard to keep up with just a few shows!

Favorites – Items of such high quality or utility that they fulfill the requirement for being a favorite thing but aren’t as critical.

  • Kindle case ($15) – My first kindle didn’t have a case and after a lot of abuse, it eventually broke in my backpack :(. I replaced the Kindle and then bought a matching case to match. It’s a great product. The link goes to the actual case I have which is for the 7th gen kindle (not the latest). Just the tiny added convenience of the Kindle waking when the case is opened is such a delight. And it protects the Kindle attractively for a very small addition to size/weight. Love it!
  • iPhone wallet case ($13) – I was late to the party on the wallet case but now that I have one, I love it. This one is cheap and of good quality. It adds minimal size to the iPhone and looks great.
  • Bose QC25 Noise Cancelling Headphones ($299) – I bought these prior to taking a lot of trips back and forth to China. Business travelers swear by them so I figured I would give them a chance. At first I thought the noise cancelling experience was strange and uncomfortable but now I love them. They feel great, have great sound and the noise cancelling aspect makes the listening experience on a plane much better. They also help me sleep which is awesome. I haven’t tried any other noise cancelling headphones but I am sure the others in this price range are just as good or maybe better. I would consider buying the wireless ones if I were to repurchase.
  • Logitech H390 USB Headset with Noise-Canceling Microphone ($25) – Once I started working with a lot of contractors that required regular skype calls, it wasn’t long before I realized that the audio quality was terrible on every mobile phone headset we tried. I finally bought Patrick and I USB headsets. These Logitech headsets were a game changer for us and are simple and awesome. The call quality is fantastic and cross-talk minimal.
  • Dyson V8 stick vacuum – Who would have thought vacuuming would be so fun?! I have one of the basic V6 models that I got refurbished for less than $200 but if needed a new one and had the money, I would get the new V8. It’s perfect for an apartment or as a second vac for a house. It is light, super powerful and crazy maneuverable. The way the head moves with a turn of the wrist is very satisfying.