Pencil by FiftyThree – 4 stars

By now I think you all know that Apple announced a new iPad called the iPad Pro, with a keyboard and Stylus called Pencil. I’m sure it will be amazeballs. Just remember, there are no new ideas, just old ideas with different execution.

Before Apple announced iPad Pro and Pencil I had picked up a similarly named product called Pencil made by FiftyThree. They are a company that produces an app called Paper and hardware called Pencil, which is a really nice stylus for your iPad and now iPhone. As a side note, I feel kind of bad for these guys since Apple has basically ripped off their product name and product. But such is the life when you build a feature for Apple’s ecosystem and then Apple decides it wants that feature too. And to be clear, the Apple Pencil will have far better / greater hardware integration than anyone else can deliver.

So, what’s great about the FiftyThree stylus?

Well with my iPad I find that I take it with me everywhere. I have the walnut version and I like how it feels. Each Pencil is slightly different due to the wood, and so if you are at a store that carries them you may want to evaluate a few different ones to get the one you like. Beyond making drawings and annotations with the Paper app, I also like using it to navigate and in apps such as OneNote. I like that it has magnets that attached to my iPad Smart Cover.


It’s not life changing by any means, but it’s by far the nicest stylus you can get for the current iPad generation. It’s helfpul for drawing if you like to do that. And with the new Paper app you can insert photos and draw on them which I find really great for landscape projects and home projects. If you are an artist I think you’ll love both products.

Great. Worth purchasing.

iPhone 6s Plus Thoughts

Well, it’s that time of year. New iPhones. Unlike last year, there is nothing obviously game changing or different about the new iPhones. Just a lot of solid improvements and reasons to upgrade. There is also a new color, Rose Pink, which I predict will be hugely popular. It looks sweet.


So, the question always comes down to, should you upgrade? Read on.

Some of you are still under the clutches of your carrier in an antiquated 2 year contract. Soon you shall be liberated. NEVER EVER sign another 2 year contract again. It’s going the way of the Dodo. Instead I recommend the following options in order if best to worst.

  1. Buy the whole phone outright. You have to put the most $ up front, but you have the most control about what you do with said phone after one or two years. You can hand it down to someone, sell it to one of the many internet companies that will happily give you 40% of the new value after one year, or keep it for two.
  2. Sign up for the new Apple Upgrade program. This is designed for people who want a new phone every year. Your payments are spread across two years and Apple Care is included. It works out to being cheaper than a similar carrier program because your Apple Care payments are spread out over two years. Oh, and you def want Apple Care. Also the phone is 100% unlocked. And the carrier is not involved. From their POV you have an unlocked off contract phone.
  3. AT&T Next or the equivalent Verizon / TMobile / Sprint program. Similar to #2 but you still interface with the carrier to upgrade and return your phone at the end of one year. Lets face it. Dealing with a carrier is about as fun as tracking a lost USPS package. To be avoided if possible.
  4. Two year contract. If you can get one. The carriers really don’t want you to have one any more so please purge the idea that you can get a new phone for a low 1 time price. It’s either full price or monthly now.

I went for Option 1.

Ok, so now that we have HOW TO BUY AN IPHONE out of the way, what’s the big deal?

Ok, so if you have an iPhone 5 or 5s (I won’t even entertain the idea that any of you are using a 4s) you should stop reading. Anything I talk about won’t matter because you are so back in the past on what’s new I can’t possibly describe what it’s like to go from one to the other. It won’t matter anyway because your iPhone 5 probably struggles to run iOS 8 and 9, and has lots of cracks and scratches in it. It’s secretly been crying to you for the past year to be upgraded.

If you have an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus the decision is a bit more complicated. Especially if you recently purchased it. Let me describe why I think you should consider upgrading. But to be honest if you don’t hell won’t freeze over.

Reasons to upgrade to the 6s

  1. It is designed to run iOS 9. As we all know Apple makes a “best effort’ attempt to run the latest OS on last year’s hardware but it’s not always great. I can attest that iOS9 is a slow pig of an OS on my old iPhone 6 Plus. Maybe 9.1 will fix. Maybe not.
  2. Speed – The 6s is nearly 50% faster. This alone is the reason to upgrade in my book. Imagine everything you rely on your phone for being 50% faster. I know, SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.
  3. Ok, if that wasn’t enough.
  4. 3D Touch. You’ve probably heard about this. As if we didn’t have enough ways to press, drag, pinch and lick our phones, we now have “press real hard”. Turns out this is a cool feature and will evolve to support a lot of interesting things. I look at this a bit like the scroll wheel on the mouse. Once we had that there was no going back. Can’t read web pages without it. 3D touch is a really delightful feature. I appreciate things like navigating back from apps to apps using force touch as well as press and hold on the keyboard to invoke text cursor movement.
  5. Touch ID is fast – I love Touch ID. When I use an iPad that doesn’t have it I often find myself confused about why the device own’t unlock. Touch ID is nearly instant now and what a welcome improvement.
  6. Updated hardware – new camera, smoother glass screen, less slippery phone. Nice touches. Especially the more slippery glass screen. Easier to move fingers.
  7. Brand new fresh battery. I easly exhaust all the battery cycles in any phone in 1 year, so after 1 months I expect 20% of the battery capacity is spent. A new phone gets me back to manufacturer specs.
  8. New features like Live Photos and 4K video. I’m not sure I’ll ever use these. Live Photo reminds me of Hyperlapes. I’ll use it twice if i can remember. And 4K video will bust my storage system so I’m not sure how excited I am. Maybe if I were a documentary filmmaker. But I’m not. I take videos of my kids.
  9. New color – always moves some units and Rose Pink aka “Bros Gold” seems to popular with the men.

So, what’s wrong with the iPhone 6s? Well for one thing, I have noticed worse battery life. But I blame iOS 9 for this. I can almost get through 1 day with the 6s Plus where a year ago with the 6 Plus I could almost get 2. I have 256 apps though and many run in the background constantly, so probably not normal.

Anyway, there you have it. Another year, another iPhone.

I expect near year’s iPhone 7 will be a more substantial upgrade. If not, well, short some Apple Stock.

Yeti Coolers Rambler Colster – 5 stars

Do you like beer? Do you drink it out of a can? Do you like beer to stay cold when you drink it? Do you have $30 bucks to spare? Read on.

On our annual trip to REI to purchase unecessary items for our car camping trip, I spotted the Yeti Rambler Colster. It’s a Koozie for a beer. If you live somewhere with lots of bumper stickers you’ve probably seen one of these things. The Koozie was actually invented in Texas in 1980. I didn’t actually know that before looking at Wikipedia, but I had suspected Texas is a popular Koozie state. And interestingly enough the Australians (Reuben and Angus) call them “stubby holder”. I don’t know, but that seems kind of offensive.

It’s a sweater for your can of beer. The theory is that you are keeping it colder.

Usually they have clever sayings like this one

Well we all know that a Vacum sealed stainless steel solution will work better than a sleeve. This is why we drink coffee out of vacuum selaed mugs and water out of vacuum sealed bottles.

Beer is no different. It’s meant to be enjoyed at 40 degrees! Keep it that way please!

Enter the Yeti Cambler Colster. Perhaps the most expensive beer Koozie.

I would shower you with my scientific testing (yes the beer stayed cold for the duration of my consumption both indoors and outdoors) but Gizmodo has done all the heavy lifting in this review.

Need I say more?

Credit: Gizmodo “I Put the Ultimate Beer Koozie to the Test and It Did Not Let Me Down”

They even have a nice decision tree to help you out

Credit: Gizmodo “I Put the Ultimate Beer Koozie to the Test and It Did Not Let Me Down”

You can pick one up at REI for $29.99 or Amazon for a bit more since it appears there is a lot of demand.

Exceptional. A spectacular product.

Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote – 5 stars

One of my rituals in visiting the island of Oahu is to make a trip out to the North Shore beach town of Hale’iwa. For a long time this was the home of the only Patagonia store on any of the Hawaiin Islands. If you buy Patagonia stuff, it’s worth the visit.

Also if you have never visited the North Shore, well, you should. It’s a charming part of the island and home of a number of amazing surf beaches, green sea turtles and monk seals (endangered).

Here is a monk seal that stayed at our resort for 2 days:


There are some unique products that the Patagonia Hale’iwa store carries, such as Surf boards, fly fishing rods, Pataloha shirts (all out of stock when I visited). On this trip I discovered an incredible beach bag, the Lightweight Travel Tote. It’s the perfect travel bag, beach bag, airplane bag or just grocery bag. My wife liked it so much we ended up getting her one as well.

This bag has so many nice features

  • It is a backpack
  • It is a tote
  • It has an inside pocket for keys
  • It has an outside pocket for your phone and other small items
  • It has two water bottle holders
  • It has two straps to stabilize the backpack
  • It’s nicely padded



and best of all…. It zips up into a tiny little pouch for packing:

There are really few products that are this versatile and useful. I highly recommend you get one for your next vacation.

You can pick this gem up from Patagonia for $79 in 4 colors.

Exceptional. A spectacular product.

myLifter – garage lifting made easy – 4 stars

One of my favorite Kickstarter projects has been the myLifter. I remember when I first saw it and thought, man… Kickstarter is so rad to bring these kind of products to market.

The myLifter is a bluetooth / phone operated ceiling mounted winch. Why would you need such a thing you might ask? Do you have a Garage? Do you have a carbo box, or bikes? Would you like an easy way to get them off the floor and on the ceiling? If so read on.

MyLifter consists of a winch, and optional accessories for lifting bikes, kayaks and roof boxes. You can combine multiple lifters to lift a platform and use your garage ceiling for storage.

As you can see in this photo, there are a lot of items you can lift.

In my case, I purchased a myLifter to store my cargo box on my ceiling, and make it easy to lower and lift right off my car roof.

Previously my cargo box was on the floor taking up valuable garage real-estate.

Installation of myLifter is pretty straight forward. You located the studs in your ceiling, drill some holds, screw in some lag bolts and attach the myLifter and an eye hook. Then you install the phone app and pair to you phone. Now you can lower and lift anything.

I’ve made a short time-lapse video in case you want to watch the box go up.

Great. Worth purchasing.

Chamberlain myQ Smart Garage Door Opener – 5 stars

Chances are, you have a garage door opener. Chances are it’s made by Chamberlain or Liftmaster (same company). Well if you want to catapult your garage door into the future of phone automated wonder, read on.

This past week I have entered the marvelous world of simple phone based home automation with the purchase of a Wink (more on that in a future article) and the Amazon Echo (Alexa – turn on the Kitchen Lights). Wink plus Echo is an incredible, in-expensive, way to connect all the mish mash of different home automation technologies (locks, lights, sprinklers, garage door, motion sensors, security, thermostat and so on). One product that Wink integrates with is the Chamberlain myQ system for controlling a garage door. This immediately set off a pavlovian response to acquire this device.

For reference, there are three different ways to gain home automation of your garage for the purposes of:

  • Opening the garage door
  • Closing the garage door
  • Checking status of the garage door
  • Setting alerts on open/close

The first way is the most expensive. Get a new Garage Door Opener. I did not pursue this since there is no reason to.

The second way, is to get the Chamberlain MYQ Garage Door Controller. This device basically works with any garage door opener but is less preferred to the next option. The reason being is that it’s harder to install, and is not really as integrated.

The third way, which is the approach I took, was to replace the existing wall control unit for my current Liftmaster Garage Door Opener with the Chamberlain myQ Connectivity Kit. That thing on the right there basically replaces the button thingy you use today to open and close your garage door. The thing on the left is the thing that connects the thing on the right to the internet, which allows for your phone to open and close the door (with an app).

This solution has the added benefit that:

  • It’s the cheapest of all options
  • It’s the same benefit of getting a new garage door opener
  • It’s hard wired to my garage
  • It has the new Security 2.0 wireless standard which means that I can get remotes with much better range than my old ones (another side benefit of this upgrade). I can  now open the door from my car (via HomeLink) from down the street. Before I would have real challenges on occasion due to wireless interference and poor range.

Install took me 5 min. I removed the old control panel, wires, connected to the new one and attached to the wall. Then I downloaded the app, created an account and connected the ethernet dongle to my network. Voila.

Now I have smart garage door with a lot of upgraded capabilities.

Exceptional. A spectacular product.

Global GS-29 – 5 inch Fish Bone Tweezers – 4 stars

We have access to some amazing and fresh seafood in the Pacific Northwest. We cook quite a lot of salmon around here, especially when Copper River Salmon is in season. But no one wants those pesky fish bones in your meal and using your fingers to remove them can be a hassle.


The Global Fish Bone Tweezer is the perfect device for yanking bones out of fish. It’s pretty much effortless and thanks to the stainless steel construction, it goes right in the dishwasher. It’s also very ergonomic and makes grabbing the bones simple and easy.

Makes for a great stocking stuffer for the chef in your family!

Great. Worth purchasing.