Apparently Cyber Monday is a thing now, so here are my product recommendations from this year.
This is going to be really nerdy, but by far the best thing I got this year was these collar extenders. Every time I try to wear a dress shirt it chokes me. The only time the collar is big enough is if I get a shirt so many sizes too big for me that the rest of it starts looking like a toga. Either I am a mutant with a uniquely high neck-to-body ratio, or I have abnormal anxiety about / sensitivity to feeling things against my neck. In either case, these little button-type things go into the shirt and make the collar bigger and solve my problem. This has made work about 50% less unpleasant, at the low cost of my dignity.
Actually, my life became a lot better in general once I noticed that a lot of my dislike of work was somatic. After preventing myself from being choked by shirts, another big improvement was getting these slip-on-like shoes plus these gel insoles for days when I’ve got to walk all around the hospital or stand by a bedside for half an hour while my team is talking to a patient. The sort of shoes that my parents would get angry about me wearing to a restaurant are apparently totally acceptable as dress shoes for work as long as they are black and shiny.
Dollar Shave Club advertises that they have good razors for cheap, and offer (for example) four four-bladed razor cartidges every month for $6. That’s an obvious advantage over normal companies like Gillette, with whom the same offer would work out to something like $15. I was all set to sign up for this, but I did my customary pre-purchase Google search and found that Dollar Shave Club gets all of their products from a company called Dorco, then sells them at a markup. If you buy from Dorco directly in bulk, you can get the same deal for only about $4.50. As best I can tell, the only difference is that instead of buying from a heavily-marketed, carefully branded organization like Dollar Shave Club, you’re buying from a company whose branding is so clueless that they named themselves “Dorco”. I got this starter pack off Amazon, and so far it’s been at least as good as my previous razor (a Gillette). Now I can change to new blades twice as often and still save money.
I continue to wrestle with oversensitivity to noise. Although there are all sorts of rumors about magic custom-fit earplugs which will completely block 100% of all sound, I’ve never been able to find them. Right now my earplugs of choice are these goofy blue ones, which have a Noise Reduction Rating of 33, about as high as you’ll find sold commercially, and are also cheap enough that you can throw them away after a night or two and comfortable enough not to bother me. When I combine them with these earmuffs I can usually get relief from most music and incidental noise, although they’re not perfect and they hurt my neck if I use them too long. This is the best combination I’ve found in years of searching, but I’m interested in other people’s discoveries.
Another thing that has proven well worth its cost in dignity: this bug vacuum, classily named a “bugzooka”. When there is a big scary bug in the house, you point the bugzooka at it, suck it up into the machine’s chamber, and then release the bug outside. Or, more realistically, you make Ozy release the bug outside, because the release mechanism is much less automated than the sucking mechanism and usually it involves dismantling the machine by hand, at which point a really angry bug has an attack of opportunity to sting/bite/spray toxins at you. That maybe wasn’t the best design choice. It’s still better than most other methods of bug collection.
My new laptop is sort of the Optimus Prime of computers – it can transform between a regular laptop, a weirdly-shaped hard-to-use laptop, and a large awkward tablet. Its weirdly-shaped hard-to-use configuration is strangely compatible with my habit of lying prone hanging halfway off a bed while I surf the Internet on a laptop on the floor below me. So far I’ve only had two problems – a total crash that the repair shop assured me was because of software, and some finger/hand pain when I type too much on the keyboard (which I solved with a peripheral USB keyboard; I type more than any reasonable person, so this may not happen to you). Other people have reported WiFi problems, but I’ve been fine. Due to some of these issues, I’m not sure I can unreservedly recommend this, but it does have a “wow” factor and I’ve been pretty satisfied. I can much more confidently recommend my tiny portable speakers, which everybody who hears seems to like and which have weathered an impressive amount of abuse without complaint.
I continue to recommend Codex Seraphinianus. For best results, use as a coffee table book, the way you would normally use some nice colorful book like Birds of North America or something. When somebody sits down at your coffee table, starts leafing through it, and asks what it is, freak out and tell them they weren’t supposed to see that. Then grab it, hastily place it in a dresser, and give them a copy of Birds of North America to leaf through.
Since I’m advertising MealSquares on the sidebar, I should probably mention them. They’re a Soylent-like food which claims to be nutritionally complete – while also being solid and made of “whole foods”. I am more likely to take their claims seriously than Soylent since they are working with a registered dietician whom I know and respect; that said, I haven’t looked into their nutritional claims too much, and the site specifically says you’ll be better off combining them with normal food than trying to live solely off MealSquares your entire life – which seems about right. Ozy and I use them when we can’t be bothered to make anything, are really hungry, and want to feel healthier than just eating a cookie or a cracker or something.