December 23, 2019

Joys of Capitalism 2019

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Hey, it’s that time of the year again. Your hard-earned money isn’t going to spend itself so I’m here to help. You’re welcome.

The cen­tral theme for the gift guide this year is build­ing rou­tines and try­ing to live a calmer, more cre­ative and orga­nized life. Maybe these gift ideas will help.

The Coffee Stuff

Unless you’re super healthy and get a full eight hours of sleep, you’ll need a dose of caf­feine in the morn­ing. And we can lever­age this real­ity by craft­ing a rou­tine around it.


Aero­Press Cof­fee Maker / ~$30

I’m rec­om­mend­ing an Aero­Press cof­fee mak­er, a cheap yet ver­sa­tile way to brew cof­fee. There are so many crazy ways to make cof­fee with this thing that it actu­ally helps you learn more about the craft. Brew longer for a more acidic cof­fee, or flip the Aero­Press upside down for more pres­sure, switch out the paper fil­ter for a metal one to get cof­fee that has more oil.

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Java­Presse Man­ual Cof­fee Grinder / ~$25

I’m also rec­om­mend­ing a hand-crank cof­fee grinder. It’s super afford­able, yet well-built. It’s slow and man­u­al, yes, but that is almost the point. Some­times, doing things the slow and hard way is so much more satisfying.

Now hope­ful­ly, if you want to, you’ll have a con­tem­pla­tive and med­i­ta­tive rou­tine of grind­ing your beans and brew­ing them just right every morn­ing. It’s a great way to start your day, and a great way to get your head in the right place.

The Reading Stuff

So what’s next? Well, you need some­thing to read while drink­ing that cup of coffee.

For that, I’m rec­om­mend­ing an RSS ser­vice and an e-read­er. At this point, we all know that the world is noisy. Every social media time­line is algo­rith­mic, with the explicit goal of feed­ing us the most sen­sa­tional and prob­a­bly crappy con­tent pos­si­ble. It’s near impos­si­ble to just con­sume the stuff we want, or actu­ally sit down and read a book without distractions.

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Feedbin / $60 per year

First, let’s go over the RSS ser­vices. I’m rec­om­mend­ing Feed­bin for most peo­ple and Mini­flux for the hard­core nerd. Feed­bin is more expen­sive, but more pol­ished and very Apple-y — it just works. Put in your favorite feeds (yup, you are the cura­tor of your media diet), and read just the stuff you want from your favorite pub­li­ca­tions and writ­ers every morning.

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Miniflux / $15 per year

How­ev­er, for the tin­kerer look­ing for more con­trol, I rec­om­mend Mini­flux. It’s loads cheaper and but strug­gles with a hor­ri­ble inter­face and poor expe­ri­ence out of the box. Despite that, it comes with a two cru­cial fea­tures: the abil­ity to fetch the full arti­cle (no more read­ing an excerpt then being forced to jump into the full site), as well as being able to spec­ify what con­tent to fetch from the site. Yeah, this is some nerdy stuff, but if you want con­trol, I guess you’ll have to settle for this.

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Kobo / ~$30–40

Next, the e-read­er. As I men­tioned above, it’s basi­cally impos­si­ble to read books now. If you attempt to read on your phone or your tablet, noti­fi­ca­tions will side­track you within minutes. Grat­i­fi­ca­tion, when it’s not instant, is no com­pe­ti­tion for Insta­gram or YouTube. The only way is to com­pletely dis­con­nect by read­ing on an e-reader.

I rec­om­mend any ran­dom Kobo (with back­light­ing) you can find on Ama­zon or eBay. It works just like any Kin­dle, except you can eas­ily just drop any ebooks into it with­out going through Ama­zon, and it’s crazy cheap. You’ll find a new one for around $40, which I think is a steal when Kin­dle equiv­a­lents are over $100.

Now, for the odds and ends. A pres­sure cooker and a smart speaker.

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Instant Pot / ~$80

A cru­cial part liv­ing a happy life (I think) is being able to cook for your­self. The Instant Pot is a life-chang­ing, both in what it can do, and what it can ignite.

First, let’s talk about it can do. This thing can cook with so much pres­sure (there’s so much pressure you can make bombs out of this kind of thing, see: Boston). This much pres­sure means you can cook rice in 4 minutes (a reg­u­lar rice cooker takes 20 minutes), or you can get soft stewed meat in 30 minutes (as opposed to 6 hours), and so on. It’s pretty incredible.

Sec­ond, it’s so easy. There’s no mess to clean, you’re not even really cook­ing. This makes it a great start­ing point for those who want to get started cook­ing. You don’t have to worry about burn­ing stuff in the pan or all the steps of a recipe. Just chop stuff up, dump them into the pot, and press some buttons.

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Google Nest Mini / ~$35

Ok, now for the Nest Mini. Well, it used to be called the Google Home Mini, now it’s the Nest Mini and it has more col­ors. I’d rec­om­mend Coral (pink-red) or Aqua (blue). The Google hard­ware team makes the most well-de­signed prod­ucts for the home. They are warm, soft, and wel­com­ing. As for the soft­ware team, the Home Mini is so good at under­stand­ing human speech — you don’t have to speak in syn­tax like you would with Alexa. This is great for timers, for play­ing Spo­ti­fy, and for ask­ing basic ques­tions about the weather and traffic.

And last­ly, the fun stuff:

I’m rec­om­mend­ing two board games this year. The first is those who are more com­pet­i­tive, who want an actual game with points and strategy.

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Boss Mon­ster: The Next Level / ~$20

In Boss Mon­ster, play­ers try to build the a dun­geon and lure in heroes, and try kill them to col­lect points. The first player to kill a cer­tain num­ber of heroes win. The fun starts when you start try­ing to sab­o­tage oth­ers or come up with novel ways to build your dun­geon.

This game is sim­ple enough to learn in 10 minutes and has ample mechan­ics to keep your competitive friends happy.

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Decep­tion: Mur­der in Hong Kong / ~$40

How­ev­er, if you’re look­ing for some­thing less tra­di­tion­al, but more of party game, I wholeheartedly rec­om­mend Decep­tion: Mur­der in Hong Kong.

Imag­ine Aval­on, but more com­plex and cre­ative, and Were­wolves/­Mafia, with fewer peo­ple. It’s great fun to attempt to trick and manip­u­late your friends, and it has the added ben­e­fit of creativity, where you have to come up with inter­est­ing ways a mur­der could’ve taken place.

Media Journal, December 2019
Promotional Tie-In Songs Are Really Good