With my OmarKnows Newsletter you can participate in my quest to find the best things (mainly gadgets). Selected articles from this blog will be published to the newsletter. Newsletters are delivered no more than once a week (Sunday 12pm PST) on weeks where I have written an article.
You can also visit the Archive of old articles.
I am excited to let you know about a service called Ridwell (Seattle only for now but growing).
I've been a customer for two months now and have sent them quite a lot of items to recycle and donate.
Ridwell is a service that makes it easy for you to get rid of:
Batteries - includes alkaline, rechargeable, small electrics, lithium watch batteries
Light bulbs - LEDs, CFLs, Incandescent
Threads - clothes, shoes, towels, sheets, fabric scraps
Plastic film - Ziplocs, bubble wrap, air pillows, grocery bags, prime shippers, bread bags, newspaper bags, dry food bags, produce bags, dry cleaning bags, etc
Rotating category - Car seats, latex paints, electronics, cords, wine corks, school supplies, legos, Halloween candy, etc
What I really appreciate is how they align the rotating categories to local causes.
The Apple Card is a fantastic credit card experience. I received mine a few weeks ago. You probably aren't thinking of getting another credit card - but let me tell you why you should consider an Apple Card.
First, let me describe which cards I use and why.
This card earns 5% back on all Amazon (and Whole Foods, etc.) purchases. No annual credit card fee, no foreign transaction fees, and no earnings caps. This is a no brainer. You should be making 100% of your Amazon purchases using this card.
You get 2% back on restaurants, gas stations, and drug stores.
Now, if you travel even moderately…. See my pro traveler tips for how I approach travel credit cards.
Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred card
This card earns 3% on any travel, transportation, or dining related purchases. You can then spend those points and get a 50% bonus when making flight reservations that earn you miles. There is simply no more leveraged way to make money if you travel.
So how does this work? Say you spend $3000 on plane tickets and hotel rooms. You will earn 9000 points. Now you can go and spend those 9000 points on an airline ticket the next time you fly, and that will be worth 13,500 points to spend or approx $150. So your $3000 travel spent earned you $150 or 5% back.
In addition to this, you get a few other benefits like $300 travel credit per year and fantastic car rental insurance when traveling internationally as well as lounge access through Priority Pass.
Not quite as good as the Chase card and comes with a high annual fee, but you can recoup nearly all of it.
$200 of uber credit per year (can be used on Uber Eats)
$100 of credit at Saks Fifth Avenue
$200 Airline Fee Credit
Access to all the Amex Lounges worldwide.
The Amex card is useless to use as a spending card in my experience, so I don't use it.
The Apple Card is an exciting twist on credit cards. It's designed to be used if you are an iPhone user as there is no web site or anything to check your spending. It's all done on the phone.
My friend Kelsi introduced me to the Casper Glow Lights, and I’ve been using them for two weeks to great success! I’ve gotten out of bed at 6:30 every M-F and 7:30 on Sat and Sunday without snoozing once! A first for me.
I am not an easy riser. The Snooze button is something I often use and go through great lengths to keep hitting. As part of my goal to get a consistent 8 hours of sleep each night, I was interested in also waking up successfully at a specific time - 6:30.
The Casper Glow is adorable! It is also a smart little device. It has several capabilities:
It will gently wake you up by starting dim and gradually getting brighter
To turn it on, you pick it up and flip it. It has a timer that will start dimming the light easing you into sleep. You can pause the timer by pressing a button on top.
To dim it you turn it on any surface to brighten and dim the light
To turn it on the lowest setting you shake it
You can pair it to other lamps to coordinate the lights
It charges using its supplied base station.
There is an iOS app that lets you program and controls the lamp as well as pair it with other glow laps.
Following my review last year of the iPhone Xs and Apple Watch Series 4 here are my thoughts on the latest hardware from Cupertino.
I continue to feel that the iPhone X was the best phone Apple made, and the Xs and 11 are clear descendants from this excellent phone. The iPhone Xs was a nice improvement on the X. Apple introduced us to the new Max size, which is what I have been carrying for the past year. The Xs also launched a new camera - the 2x telephoto camera. The 11 Pro adds a third camera - the wide-angle - and Apple has many more tricks up its sleeve.
iOS 13 - a quick note on iOS 13. My feeling is that this is one of the biggest collections of small upgrades Apple has made. It's pretty overwhelming to explore and discover the hundreds of changes in the new OS. So whether you have a new phone or an older phone running iOS 13 you will have a lot of new capabilities to play with. I'm thrilled with the range of improvements that make every day tasks like sharing, messaging, and browsing better.
This summer, I drank a lot of cold brew. As I traveled around Europe, it became clear to me that cold brew was trendy and available in many different cities we visited. One of the hotels we visited had a fantastic coffee boutique (to call it a coffee shop would be insulting). These guys were making cold brew by using the slow drip method, and it was delicious.
Note: cold brew is not the same thing as iced coffee which is hot coffee placed in ice (that will make it watery). Cold brew is coffee that is brewed with cold water - usually for many hours.
When I got home, I decided to give it a go. I read a lot about cold brew and purchased a few different devices to make some. I also bought some cold brew from blue bottle “in a can” to act as our “control.”
Making cold brew is pretty simple. Most of the machines involve some a contraption that takes your coffee ground and water. The only thing you do besides shake is wait. The waiting can vary from 8 to 24 hours. I feel that 8-12 hours is the sweet spot as that means I can make .75 to 1L of cold brew the night before and it will be ready to take to work the next day (or sip on during the weekend).
For my needs, I found that the simplest way to get a great cold brew at home is to purchase the Hario Cold Brew bottle from Blue Bottle coffee. I already get my coffee beans every two weeks from Blue Bottle (the Bella Donovan is perfect for pour-over), and so it was a plus that they grind and dose the exact amount of coffee that you need for a single batch of cold brew. I also like that the Hario is made of glass. Many of the contraptions I investigated were plastic.
I recently had two TeslaPowerwalls installed to serve as backup for our home. My PowerWalls are powered by my solar panels which I also expanded since installing in 2015 (I added 8 panels to my home). I am now offsetting 50% of my power utilization a year (even with my Tesla Model 3 which consumes about 20% of my total energy each year.
I want to get this out of the way and say I don’t need PowerWalls. We loose power in our home about once a year due to trees falling or lightning usually in the summer or fall when the trees still have leaves and we get heavy rain. I have considered getting a generator over the past few years and went so far as to have generator hookups installed on my electric panels but just could not get myself to purchase a gas generator. To do so would have meant.
Storing gas and keeping it fresh
Dealing with maintenance and up-keep
Finding a place for a massive generator
Wheeling it out and starting it every time we needed it
But my procrastination and annoyance bought me enough time for the day when I pulled the trigger and got them.
I know it’s been a while as my posting schedule was essentially shut down this summer. I hope to get back to a twice a month publishing schedule.
A week ago I returned to work after taking the last 8 weeks off as part of my Microsoft sabbatical and traveling for most of it with my family. We visited 12 countries and 17 cities and planning for this trip was an 18 month project which included a lot of detailed planning on what to bring!
I learned a lot about how to optimize for travel packing and below are some of the details about what products I found useful.
A few weeks ago I picked up a new wallet. It seemed to hit on all the things I was interested in.
- Holds 6-8 cards
- No RFID protection for 1-2 cards (for my Microsoft RFID badge or hotel room key)
- Quick access to daily use credit card and driver license (two things I don’t seem to need at all when paying anywhere but the US as I use Apple Pay)
- Space for a few bills of cash
Now that I am in Europe I am seeing these wallets sold in many stores. They are made by Secrid a Danish company. The wallets come in many styes which you can read about on their web site.
I picked up the Slimwallet In Matte Black.