My Favorite Things

Short reviews of fun things that make life easier!

Main Fade by me

πŸ“  Tech πŸ“ 

Vimium

Vimium is probably my most-used tool, just by the fact that I usually use it multiple times on each web page.

Vimium brings Vim-style keyboard commands to the web browser, which makes switching between tabs, clicking on things, and jumping to text input boxes massively easier and can be done without ever leaving the home row of your keyboard! It's hard to imagine browsing around without hitting h to go back or f to highlight and click on links.

If I was 10x more geeky, I'd probably be using *actual* Vim for everything :)

Keyboard shortcuts in general

From Vimium to Sublime Text to Notion to Gemcraft, once you learn to navigate around with keyboard shortcuts, computerlife is so much easier (and fun!). I frequently copy text over into Sublime just for the ease of quickly using find+replace (even with regex) or editing multiple lines at once.

Even if you don't use those other programs, read up on your own web browser's default keyboard shortcuts, because doing something like Control + T to open a new tab, Control + W to close a tab, and Alt + Left/Right Arrow to go back and forward between pages is much easier than grabbing the mouse and trying to precisely click a tiny Γ— in the corner. πŸ‘

Compose key combos

There's no easier way to type frequently-used special characters like '…', 'β€”', and 'Β½' without interrupting your normal typing flow. I also really enjoy the fun key combos that are easy to memorize or even intuit when you want to type something: ~ + n = Γ±; / + c = Β’; - + - + - = β€”

Squeezebox

Squeezebox Boom via Frank Hamm on Flickr

Even though I don't use this internet radio every day like I used to, it's one of those products that has earned my respect due to how well it has performed over the years.

The sound quality is spectacular, with a specially-designed subwoofer tube that sounds incredibly deep for a loaf-of-bread-sized radio.

It is charmingly difficult to navigate, with a menu system that branches out and can only be displayed via the small display screen. It's charming in the sense that it forces you to remember where you are down the hierarchy of menus and how to find your way back out of them using the directional pad on the remote control, but that menu setup also means that when I use it to play Christmas music during the holidays, I have to set it on a single radio station that will automatically play if any other family members dare to approach its array of buttons πŸ˜†

I intentionally plug the radio in occasionally so that it will phone home to whoever is tasked with maintaining its central web server after Logitech bought the company in 2006, and to revel in how it's supremely cool that it still works 11 years after I bought it, when others like Sonos will threaten to send your newer and more expensive speaker to the dump to avoid having to support it. Even if the Logitech site goes down in the future, I could still connect to the radio through a local installation of the Squeezebox server software.

The radio will also always hold a special place in my heart because I paid for it… with pocket change! I set aside coins for who-knows-how-long in a plastic jar, hauled the whole thing to the coin exchange machine at the grocery store, and redeemed $250+ in coins as an Amazon gift certificate that I used to buy the radio 😊


🏑 Home 🏑

ACME bags from ReusableBags.com

ACME Workhorse 1500 via reuseit.com

I got very lucky by buying two awesome-quality reusable bags early in the 2000s and I still use them to this day! Unfortunately I won't be able to link to them since ReusableBags.com is gone, and no similar bags are as good as the design of the originals.

The smaller bag is ripstop nylon and the larger one is very tough canvas. They're made to roughly represent a plastic bag and a paper grocery bag in size, but since they are fabric, both hold much more weight than seems reasonable!

Other "packable" designs for reusable bags have a hard time squishing or folding back into their small pockets, but the ACME bag has been easy to repack every time, and packs small enough that I could carry it in my hoodie pocket to have it at-the-ready πŸ˜ŠπŸ›οΈ


πŸ’™ Health & Wellbeing πŸ’™

5-HTP

I hesitate to say too much about 5-HTP, since everyone likely reacts to it differently, but it really has been lifechanging for me. I've been depressed at times and anxious at times, and I'm not sure how my mental troubles would be classified by a professional, but taking 5-HTP daily makes a significant and noticeable change in my mental state. So much of a change that it feels unfair and makes me sad to think of how dysfunctional I was before then.

5-HTP is an amino acid that works by breaking down into serotonin (5-HT), so it makes up for a lack of serotonin, kind of like antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Again, I have no medical idea what's going on up in my brain, but I'm glad something worked.

I am naturally doubtful, and would be willing to dismiss any positive outcome as the placebo effect, but I've noticed on certain days I would sink back down into dark, angry, and anxious thoughts for a few hours, then eventually remember that I had missed my daily 5-HTP. Within 30 minutes I'll begin to feel more uplifted and my mind will stop racing. The effect is so pronounced that, even if it was a placebo, I'd gladly keep taking it, because the mental change is something I've been searching for for 20 years.


So, what kind of stuff are you into? πŸ€“