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. If multiple articles have been published during the week you'll receive all of them in a single email.
You can also visit the Archive of old articles.
If you haven't heard by now, Equifax, one of the big 3 credit agencies suffered one of the biggest breaches of personal information in history.
If you are affected (they claim 140 million people were) then you need to re-think a lot of things. You can check if you are affected by visiting this link. The credit agencies maintain some of your most important and confidential information about you such as social security numbers, addresses, former names, your mortgage, car loans, credit card(s), spending history, balances, divorces, marriages, siblings name and information, children names and information and so on.
What is really awful however, is that much of this information is used to verify who are who you are. For example when applying for a loan, or doing a wire transfer your bank may ask you a series of questions. Those questions come from your credit report. Take PayPal and Square Cash - they will often use your credit report to authorize higher transfer limits from your accounts.
This information was stolen and it's never going back. Equifax has literally exposed millions of people to future and ongoing fraud and identity theft that they cannot put the lid back on. This is a good reminder of how broken the system is. Too much information, without the necessary protections and a flawed business model. To add insult to injury Equifax has fumbled and screwed up their response and only offered people 1 year of identity theft monitoring.
None of that will matter. This information is in the hands of criminals. This information is valuable for the next decade or longer. The exposure you face to fraud has never been more severe or significant.
So with this in mind, I recommend you take the following actions.
A while ago I wrote up How I make coffee. Since then I continue to use a Ratio 8 automatic pour over and love it to death. We still do 1-cup pour over too using a blue bottle pour over system (replaced the Hario).
For travel though, I have been lugging around my pour over setup which is a tad bulky. I discovered that Espro makes a portable french press mug now. I picked one up the other day and took it to work with me. It's truly a remarkable product. Espro is known for making french press systems that have two filters so less "grit" comes through. They are also compatible with small paper filters which produce a pour over like taste as the filter will keep all the oil out.
I’ve been doing research for a while on getting a whole home water shutoff solution. I previously wrote about the solution I use for the washing machines. I have a 2nd floor washer and this is one of the things that can really mess with your house given washing machine hoses only last a few years and are under high pressure. I’m paranoid about water leaks and water damage when I’m away from home. I’ve always been in the habit of shutting off the main water supply to my house whenever we are gone for more than a day but I was looking for something more automated that I could do from anywhere.
That is when I discovered the LeakSMART. You need to get a version that matches the size of your water supply. In my case I have 1 1/4 inch water supply and LeakSMART did not have a solution till recently. Once it came out I purchased it and scheduled a plumber to install. Well that happened a few weeks ago and so far this has perfectly met my expectations.
Since our daughter was 6 we have followed a simple but effective philosophy for teaching her about money. This was inspired from articles we read (I mean my wife read) about targeting a weekly allowance tied to your child's age, in our case we started at $6 a week. Common wisdom among many parents we knew was to tie allowance to chores and start later than we did. We didn't follow that path and felt that we wanted our kids to have a meaninful amount of money that allowed them to save for things like legos (which are expensive) and also make good choices about small and big purchases. We didn't want to get nagged to buy things for them and wanted them to learn how to save and save up for things they wanted.
If you want to read more about this, I would point you to this article and this book called The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber. About 1 chapter into reading it was already armed with insight and understanding on how to raise kids who thoughtfully consider the value of money.
There are a lot of really good made in America packs these days from Tom Bihn and GoRuck. In fact my son has the perfect backpack, a kid's GoRuck that unfortunately is not in stock till 2018. It is a great size for Kindergarten age kids, and doesn't have that giant look to it. He has the 13L pack in gray and red.
Topo Designs is a Colorado company and make their bags by hand. I picked up two bags from them and they are a huge hit with me and my kiddo.
For a year now my family has been using these compact micro fiber beach towels by Acteon. They take up a fraction of the space that a regular towel does and they work really well in a pinch.
For the past two years, I have been very happy with the two pairs of sunglasses I own. A pair of Maui Jim polarized for driving, and a RayBan Wayfarer Liteforce. You really can't beat the Wayfarer as they are a classic sunglass that work well for most people. I recommend always going for the polarized versions, and the Liteforce are a thinner and lighter series that are great for traveling. I keep these in my work bag and take them everywhere.
The Wayfarer is also a great unisex sunglass, and they make smaller sizes for middle school aged kids and even little people.
A few years ago, I wrote about the simplehuman sensor pump. Since that time, I've had a number of issues with clogging. I still have my sensor pumps but 2 of them clogged up needing replacement. The issues seem to arise when you don't use a pump for a long time.
Recently, simplehuman release foam based, cartridge pumps.
It's almost that time of year.... in Seattle it feels like maybe we will skip spring and go straight to summer?
If you have kids, you know that Summer is filled with creamy white sunscreen applications each morning before the kids go to camp, the beach, or whatever. Having sunburnt kiddos is no fun.
Two years ago I wrote an article on my favorite sunscreen, Beyond Coastal.
I explained my reasons for why I chose a chemical sunscreen over a mineral one. After years of trying mineral sunscreen I was done. I could not stand how the products felt, were applied, and how they stained my cars, furniture and everything else. I also found a lot of variability in preventing burns and questionable science that mineral is actually, in balance, better.
When I have questions about cosmetic products, I usually turn to the Environmental Working Group. They do an OK job of giving you a view on how many cosmetic products stack up. In their mind, Beyond Coastal is one of the best chemical sunscreens out there and I have been a happy customer for 2 years.
With Mother's day and Father's day on the horizon, I thought I'd write about something for men. I've been looking for a new dressy belt for a few months. I think the last time I purchased a black or brown belt I was in college. Belt shopping isn't exactly how I would choose to spend my time, but when you need something it will warrant some effort.
However, my attempts have not produced any results. The department store drive by belt investigation did not land me on a belt. On a recent trip I noticed that my friend Tony East was bragging about how his belt does not set off the security apparatus at the airport. While telling me this he also mentioned it was reversible.
REVERSIBLE!!!! you mean the two necessary colors, black and brown, plus a belt you could wear in the airport? I had to know what this magical thing was.
It also turns out that Tony, as a big fan of Paul Smith (I mean who isn't!), found a reversible belt that fits the bill in so many ways. I ordered mine within minutes from the Paul Smith website and had it a few days later.
I go the belt in the black primary color since that is what I use most. Brown is he secondary color. It's made of Saffiano leather which is a type of leather finishing that produces that shiny bumpy texture with a cross hatched pattern. It is very durable.