Vornado 660 Whole Room Air Circulator

It’s summer. If you are lucky, you have air conditioning. Most people in Seattle do not. When we purchased our house, one of the first things we did was get AC. Why? Because my wife (and honestly I) can’t sleep in a hot room. We have a 3 story, new house. As such it’s incredibly well insulated and when it gets hot, it stays hot for a long while.

When purchasing our house though, we made the mistake of getting whole house air conditioning because our house was plumbed for it. However in hindsight, that was a mistake. We would have been way better off installing a Ductless Mini-Split system in our 3 bedrooms. This would have provided the correct sleeping temperature in the only rooms that we need cooling, without wasting money cooling our whole house (mostly unnecessary here in Seattle). Ductless mini-split is designed for people that don’t have ducting (radiant heat or no heat), but they can also act as heat pumps and heat in the winter. Think of them as basically an air conditioner that can run in reverse to heat as well.

Anyway, what’s done is done. We have a problem though. Our bedroom is quite large (with vaulted ceilings), and on a moderately warm day (> 76) our room gets beaten by the sun, and with the vaulted ceilings doesn’t really cool down enough by the evening. After a few years of pondering a solution, it turned out some old school tech was all that was needed. A Fan.

note: scheduled for a different / future post is our wool duvet and bed cover, which probably has had the most profound impact on our sleep comfort.

What is it?

The Vornado 660 Whole Room Air Circulator is a Fan, but it’s not really designed to blow air at you. It’s designed to circulate the air in the room. And boy does this thing move air around. It turns out that air movement (or the lack theirof) is the primary reason our room didn’t cool down. Our ceiling would collect hot air, and that hot air would fall as the day went on, crushing the ability for our ducts to push enough cool air to keep things comfy.

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You can see from the photo, that this thing looks nice. It comes in White and Black [$99 @ Amazon]. We chose white for our room. It’s not a nice looking as say the $300-$400 Dyson Fans, but the cost / benefit to this guy is kinda nuts in my opinion.

The reason it’s tilted up because you are supposed to “point” it at say the corner ceiling of your room to get air circulating. You do not point it at your bed for example.

Why did you get it?

I got this particular Fan because of the rave reviews on Amazon, and my general familiarity with Vornado. I wanted to love the idea of getting a Dyson fan, but the reviews are pretty mixed and the cost is pretty high.

How has it made your life better?

We’ve had this Fan for a few weeks and my general observation is that it’s cooled our room about 3-4 degrees. That’s a pretty substantial difference for us.

I have placed it within the vicinity of our duct, and so it managed to capture cool air (roughly 50-60 degree) and blow it straight up to the vaulted ceiling, pushing the hotter air down back into the room.

The fan has 4 speed settings. The lowest setting produces a very comfortable flow of air with minimal noise. The 2nd setting is a bit stronger with a bit louder, but tolerable noise for sleeping. 3 and 4 are left for mega hot days (80+ degrees outside) and we leave it on 3-4 during the day and then 1-2 at night.

Are you going to keep it?

This should last a good long time. We plan on getting a smaller model for our daughter’s room which has a different problem. Too cold in the winter as her room is over our garage, and it tends to be a cold spot in our house.

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Duralex glass food storage

Today we are taking a detour to talk about something you probably don’t think much about… food storage.

My guess is that many of you have something that looks like this

credit: Melanie in the Middle - The Tupperware Cabinet

Credit: Melanie in the Middle – The Tupperware Cabinet

So did I. We had a mix of plastic and glass food storage. It got out of control. A few years back I decided to fix all this, standardizing on one kind of brand, and with stackable containers. This is when I discovered the Duralex Lys food storage that are made of glass (and by a french glass company that makes our drinking cups, Duralex Picardie Tumbler, also stackable)

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What is it?

The Duralex Lys are glass stackable food storage containers with blue lids. They come in a variety of sizes (all the same shape). It was rather confusing understanding how much and how many we would need. You can see the variety of shapes and sizes of the containers below.

Duralex Lys 5-Piece Square Bowl with Lids Set

 

Here is a guide of the sizes I put together:

  • 5.375 ounces = 3/4 cup = 3 1/2 inch bowl = Saladier 9
  • 10 ounces = 1 1/4 cup = 4 3/8 inch bowl = Saladier 11
  • 20 ounces = 2 1/2 cup = 5 1/2 inch bowl = Saladier 14
  • 36 ounces = 4 1/2 cup = 6 5/8 inch bowl = Saladier 17
  • 68 ounces = 8 1/2 cup = 7 7/8 inch bowl = Saladier 20

If you are not sure where to start, you can get a set that includes one of very size. This is what I did first. Then I order sets of 6 of the sizes I wanted.

I have found that the largest size isn’t something I use often, so the 1 that came with the set was plenty. Of course your needs may differ and you can get more of the 68oz container.

Here is what our cabinet looks like now:

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Why did you get it?

As I mentioned above, I was hoping we could store all our food storage containers on one shelf in our kitchen. Saving both space and simplifying the task of pulling out the right size container, and having enough of them to store the right amount of food.

How has it made your life better?

It’s really simplified our lives. Food storage is readily available, neatly stored in our island making the task of finding a container, and storing food easy. Also because the containers are glass and not plastic, we don’t have to worry about any kind of chemical nasties.

According to Duralex  this is what they have to say about their product:

  • Duralex is 2.5 times more resistant to breakage and chipping than normal glass, can also withstand sudden thermal shock: from -4°f to 266°f
  • Shock resistant tempered glass can go straight from the freezer to the microwave
  • Duralex glass is very hygienic; it is non-porous and does not absorb liquids, colors or flavor
  • Duralex plastic lids are BPA free, microwave safe and dishwasher safe
  • Freezer, microwave and dishwasher safe; Made in France

Are you going to keep it?

These are very durable and should last a decade or more.

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Sony RX100M3

I’ve been an avid photographer since I was 10 and got my first SLR (Nikon 2020). I’ve owned a number of digital cameras over the years. The first digital photo I shot was on March 14th 1998 of the Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC.

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It wasn’t till 2004 that I got my first Digital SLR, a Nikon D70. First photo I took with that camera, on March 28, 2004 is of the Bay Bridge

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According to Photoshop Lightroom, my wife and I have shot with 57 cameras (including phones) since 1998. My current camera, which I love to death, is a Fujifilm X-T1.

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This is the 4th Fujifilm camera I’ve owned and I cannot say enough about the quality of the images it takes. Like this on (1/680 @ f4.7 – ISO800):

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However, this post is not about my fancy camera. It’s about a remarkable point and shoot camera. One that you should absolutely consider getting, the Sony RX100M3 (M3 stands for the 3rd version).

What is it?

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The Sony RX100M3 ($798 @ Amazon.com) is a digital point and shoot camera. Sony has made 3 of these to-date and each one has improved on the last. They have all been highly reviewed and are considered the best (non professional) cameras on the market. This is an expensive Point and Shoot camera. There is no sugar coating the price. But what you get is the ability to capture photos that camera 2-3 times it’s price takes in something that will fit in your pocket (and likely take with you to more places).

I would urge you to read the following 2 articles to get a sense of what I am talking about. The first by David Pogue is written in layman’s terms, the second is a review by an acclaimed and authoritative web site that reviews cameras (also owned by Amazon.com)

 

Why did you get it?

I have a really nice camera and some really nice lenses. I mentioned that already. I also have an iPhone 5s, which takes pretty awesome pictures. Like the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you….I got the Sony RX100 for a few reasons:

  1. My friends have been raving about it
  2. The articles have been raving about it
  3. It shoots at f1.8 which means beautiful depth of field, and low light photos without a flash (at high ISO)
  4. It has an electronic view finder. A first for a point and shoot.
  5. It has an articulating LCD screen for taking selfies (yes Angus, including selfie videos)
  6. I don’t always want to carry around my Fuji (like going to the beach, or out to dinner) and want something better than the iPhone
  7. I’m an avid photographer and wanted to see what Sony was up to

David Pogue ends his article with this sentiment that I think captures how I feel about this camera:

There’s an old saying in the photography business: The best camera is the one you have with you. I’d phrase it differently: The RX100 M3 is the best camera you can always have with you.

DP Review ends their review with:

The RX100 III is the most capable compact camera we’ve ever seen. With its built-in viewfinder and more consistently fast lens, there’s nothing that can provide better image quality in such a small package. It’s not the perfect camera to take shot-to-shot control over, but its capability means it justifies its high price tag.

How has it made your life better?

My wife now takes photos! This is a huge improvement over just me taking photos. Now I am actually in some pictures! This is a big deal honestly since I’m the family photographer.

But really, what this camera means is that we capture more amazing photos that we would not have otherwise taken.

Here is an example of a photo taken with the RX100M3 (1/800 @ f2.8 ISO 125)

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Are you going to keep it?

Cameras are not things I keep for very long. That’s just the way it is. I tend to keep a camera till the next version comes out. I usually sell it for 60-75% of what I paid for it, and get the new one. I basically “rent” cameras.

But my experience with this camera, is that I will probably upgrade to the M4, M5, M6 etc that is, unless Fuji can produce a competitive point and shoot camera like this. Rumor has it they will, but right now they have nothing that comes close (the Fuji X20 being the competitor)

I see a lot of people out there with pretty low end Nikon & Canon SLRs (D40/D60, Canon Rebel etc). Most of these cameras have only ever seen their “kit” lens, which tend to be cheaper, low quality lenses. If you have one of these cameras, I’d suggest that you take a look at replacing it some day with this camera (or it’s future incarnation). I think you’ll be really pleased. Probably even surprised.

The most ringing endorsement I can relate to you about this camera is that my wife commented on how incredible the pictures are, and stopped using her iPhone on vacation to take pictures. That’s something.

Kenu Airframe – Mounting your Phone in your Car

Let’s face it. Our phones are way better technology than the junk in our cars. Either you have the latest, most state of the art navigation and music playing system in your car (in which case in 2 years you will laugh at it) or you don’t and your phone is already better.

Over the last few years I have realized that I’d much rather prefer to use my phone as a navigation tool (such as the Waze app) or a Music Player (to stream spotify or an audio book). When I do find the instance that I use my car navigation system, I am dismayed that I don’t have dynamic routing, traffic reports, updated map data and so on.

If you car has bluetooth, then you are pretty much set. All you need is power (an article for a future post) and a mount for your phone. I have been doing some research on phone mounts for our cars, and one that I can take on trips where I am driving a rental car around and using my phone to find my way.

My research has ended with what I have found to be a fantastic solution to having visibly of my phone in a hands free configuration… so enter the Kenu Airframe.

What is it?

The Kenu Airframe [24.95 @ Amazon in Black and White] is a contraption that you attach to your heating/AC vent in your car. It attaches to the plastic fins, and stays secure. Then you attach your phone to it. It has the added benefit that when you have the AC on it cools your phone down, which on a hot day is necessary as the GPS can burn up the battery, heat the phone and prevent it from charging.

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Why did you get it?

I wanted something that was easy to place my phone in for my commute every day, and have the ability to stream music or use Waze to find the best route home in traffic. I was particularly interested in something that did not attach to the dashbaord (possibly ruining the dashboard) or the front windshield (illegal in some states).

I also wanted something portable that I could take on a vacation or trip.

I ended up buying 3 of them. One for my car, Lora’s car and for travel.

How has it made your life better?

It’s really high quality, easy to install and remove, and won’t damage the car. It allows me to keep my phone at a convenient arm’s length and keep me focused on driving and not looking around for my phone.

Are you going to keep it?

Well, until something better comes along, or I get a phone that is too large for this guy. Kenu says it works for a phone up to 5 inches. That is going to seem small in a few months.

Fluxmob BOLT Portable Battery Backup and Wall Charger

If you’ve been reading this, you’ll note that I’ve written about various wall charges in the past. What about portable batteries? This post is about one such gadget: The Fluxmob BOLT.

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What is it?

The Bolt [$59.99 via Amazon] is a combination wall charger and battery. It’s an all in one device. I carry this with me everywhere as you never know when you might need to juice up, and it’s handy to have enough charge in the battery to charge your phone from empty to full at least once (this device can charge an iPhone 5s about 1 and 1/2 times.

Like many devices, I discovered this via Kickstarter. It comes in a variety of colors:

Why did you get it?

I like having emergency power with me at work, on the plane and out and about. Having single device that does both charging via AC and battery is awesome.

The device is pretty small and compact and very high quality.

How has it made your life better?

Not life changing by any means, but more convenient.

Are you going to keep it?

I’ve had my bolt for a while now. I had a problem with my first one, and they replaced it right away with a new model (that was slightly improved). Overall, very happy with this purchase!

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Epicurean Utensils

I’ve been a big fan of Epicurean products for a long time. You probably know them for their thin dishwasher safe cutting boards. They make their products from wood fibers and resin. We’ve had our oldest cutting board from Epicurean for almost 10 years and it still looks brand new.

A few years ago they started making many more products from this same material. One in particular that I really love are their utensils for cooking. This post is about that.

What is it?

Kitchen utensils… probably not something you’ve thought much about. You probably have your standard wood spoons for cooking, or maybe some plastic / metal ones. Wood spoons are great because they are safe on your non stick cookware, but over time they get old and crack and they hold on to food smell.

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Enter Epicurean utensils. They are made from the same awesome material as their cutting boards and don’t get hot, can be thrown in the dishwasher and safe for all kinds of cookware. You can just leave them in a pot while you are cooking without worrying about melting or burning. They are also very light and easy to work with.

Why did you get it?

A few years ago all our wood spoons started to break / crack from being put in the dishwasher so often. So I got rid of them all and ordered a set of utensils. I own:

They have many more products as well including silicon utensils. See here for a complete catalog of products.

How has it made your life better?

Good, high quality products are things I appreciate and value. Epicurean products are simply excellent and I own many. I recommend you try them out.

Are you going to keep it?

Yep, see no reason to replace them. They are wonderful.

Doxie Flip

My guess is that many of you have a scanner, and probably can’t figure out how to use it. My experience has always been that scanner software is nearly impossible to setup / configure / use and keep working. For the past many years I’ve had an expensive Fujitsu scanner for being nearly 100% paperless. This thing gobbles up mail, statement and papers and turns them into PDFs (I’ll save this for another post).

However, what about all those 4×6 photos you have? Receipts? Or really large items that can’t be easily scanned? Enter Doxie. The scanner with nothing to install, no computer to plug it into, the scanner that’s easy to use and cheap. There are multiple Doxie models:

  • Doxie Flip – flatbed
  • Doxie One – sheet fet, basic model
  • Doxie Go – sheet fed, rechargeable battery, 2x the optical resolution, and built-in memory

This post is about the Flip

What is it?

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The Doxie Flip [$149 via Amazon] is a tiny flatbed scanner that doesn’t need a computer. It scans photos, receipts and large items (via a clever removable lid and software that stitches photos) and stores them on an SD card that you can later pop into your computer and download (like a camera). You can also, optionally, add an Ey-Fi card and just have the items wireless upload to your cloud of choice (or PC).

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Why did you get it?

Every few months we get some analog photos that need scanning and recycling (we are all digital). And every few months our daughter brings home some largish piece of artwork or poster that won’t fit in our scanner. So I use Doxie to get them into the PC and archived.

I pretty much just scan anything I might feel guilty about throwing away, and then I throw it away.

We also have a few hundred old photos that my parents gave me (smaller than 4×6) and so over the past year I have been scanning batches of these photos. You really need a flatbed scanner to do this as any scanner that feeds in photos will get scanned in with lines on it due to the glossy paper + dust creating bands / lines on the photos. Flatbed scanners can be a bit of a nightmare when tethered to a PC so this turns out to be a great way to get all those family memories scanned and archived.

So I did some research looking looking for something that was easy to use, didn’t require a PC, and was portable (this thing runs off AA batteries).

How has it made your life better?

It’s a lot easier to get stuff on the PC and share it. It makes getting those hundreds of analog memories we have easy to get on our PC and archived forever.

What I will do sometimes is plop down in front of the TV and scan a few dozen photos in batch, then import them to the PC and recycle the photos.

I just keep this little scanner in our kitchen and anyone can just grab it and scan a photo. My Eye-fi card delivers it to my PC where it’s stored on a local RAID hard drive and then backed up by Crashplan to the cloud.

Are you going to keep it?

I’ve had this for a few months now and still use it every month. Very handy and simple. I highly recommend you get the Flip, or take a look at their other models.