Cyber Monday Product Recommendations

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.

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166 Responses to Cyber Monday Product Recommendations

  1. Anon Coward says:

    Re: Hearos Ear Plugs.
    Agreed. They are an excellent option. (I am also noise sensitive.)

    I use them with Bose QC15s or QC20s (noise canceling Bose over-ear headphones or ear buds respectively) with construction/shooting earmuffs for the gym and/or work. They’re a tad expensive on a resident’s salary, but when you’re making attending cash pick up a pair of one or the other (or the equivalent at the time). The noise cancellation is eerie and wonderful. Audiophiles complain that the sound quality isn’t equivalent to similarly priced headphones of other brands, but it’s worth it for the noise cancellation.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      You’re able to use the earplugs, the Bose, and the earmuffs all at the same time? I don’t understand the anatomy of that.

      Are Bose QCs able to block out very low frequency (like people walking on a floor above you, or heavy bass, etc?) Right now that’s my main problem.

      • Noahhumility says:

        Noise canceling is most effective on low frequencies – but not perfect. I do get an unpleasant sensation in my ears when I use them, like they know their being tricked and aren’t too excited about it.

        • Anon Coward says:

          QC15s and ear plugs.
          Or QC20s and ear muffs.

          I principally use the QC15 and ear plugs strategy. They perform best with sound that is varying less in frequency. (Ambient noise on airplanes, 60hz electrical hum, etc.) but do a solid job regardless.

          QC15+ Hearos blue plugs work remarkably well. For example, I’ve been two rows away from a crying baby on a plane and slept straight through a coast-to-coast flight.

        • Anonymous says:

          I maybe know the sensation you’re talking about, I get it from playing with phase inversion when doing studio work (invert one speaker and leave the other, it feels like my head is turning inside out). It doesn’t seem to bother most people, so I’d expect noise cancelling headphones to not bother most people that way on the same principle.

        • RCF says:

          Ever walk through the anti-theft RFID detector thingies in stores and libraries while wearing headphones”

      • Richard says:

        If you have absolutely no concerns about how stupid you look, you could go to a sporting store and get the noise canceling ones that are intended for shooting ranges or hunting. Much more heavy duty and you can amplify certain frequencies so that you can hear people trying to talk to you if you want.

        • Nornagest says:

          I can’t speak for everything on the market, but your average ear protection marketed for shooting is more concerned with amplitude than with frequency and doesn’t do much active cancellation. How mine work is that the hearing protection comes from a heavy pair of earmuffs, like the dumb kind your dad or uncle probably had for woodworking, and then there’s a little mic on the outside of each muff that retransmits anything it hears below 80 dB or so (like your friend talking to you) to an equally small speaker on the inside, and cuts out if it hears anything above (like the guy firing a shotgun in the next lane over).

          I expect the in-the-ear kind work similarly.

          • Richard says:

            The ones I got have two knobs that lets you adjust the frequencies you want to hear, so that when you are hunting you can hear the deer rustling leaves while on the range you can adjust so that you can hear people talk. They have active cancellation. I seem to remember they were hideously expensive though, but prices may have come down.

          • Nornagest says:

            Huh, that’s cool. Where’d you get them?

          • Richard says:

            That would be my local sporting store. The brand seems to be Howard Leight.

            Edit: Seems they don’t make mine anymore. Closest I can find by feature list is Peltor Tactical XP. Also ugly as hell and prices have not come down

          • RCF says:

            “and then there’s a little mic on the outside of each muff that retransmits anything it hears below 80 dB or so”

            Can you explain what that means?

          • William O. B'Livion says:


            The type of hearing protection he’s talking about use a combination of passive (hard shell with foam) blocking and electronic blocking.

            There is a microphone on the outside that collects sound, passes it through the foam, through some electronics that clamp “damaging” levels of sound, and then a small speaker.

            This lets you talk to people around you at normal volumes, even when there is someone shooting a small to moderately loud firearm close by.

            It also lets you hear the range officer issue instructions.

            A side effect of this is if you’re sitting in a class and the instructors walk away you can turn up the volume to see what they are saying.

            Oh, and in the realm of bureaucratic stupidity Active noise cancelation headphones are (or can be depending on local security) banned from TS/SCI environments because they have microphones in them.


      • von Kalifornen says:

        There are also earplugs for sound techs and lovers of stupidly loud electronic music which offer a flat frequency response.

        • eeuuah says:

          Recommendations on disposable ear plugs with flat response that are inexpensive?

          I would love some of those

  2. Alex Godofsky says:

    re: collar extenders

    Oh my god I need these. I am a mutant with a uniquely high neck-to-body ratio and encounter exactly the problem you describe.

    • Mary says:

      Have you — and Scott — had your thyroid checked? Sensitivity to collars is a symptom of thyroid problems.

      • Zubon says:

        I can’t speak for the others, but I have similar sizing issues and it is more of simple circumference than “sensitivity”: shoulders unusually broad for my height/arm length, neck and chest similarly needing more fabric relative to lower torso. Which is not to say I’m otherwise slim, just built with nonstandard proportions.

      • Alex Godofsky says:

        As Zubon said, the problem isn’t sensitivity but rather that the collar literally does not reach all the way around my neck.

      • Paul Torek says:

        Like Zubon and Alex, here. Us big-necks can also often/usually look forward to needing CPAP for sleep apnea, once we reach a certain age (you kids, get off my lawn).

      • Mary says:

        Thyroid problems can enlarge the thyroid. That’s why the sensitivity problems arise.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        It’s also a symptom (in my case) of having damage to the C5-C7 and having the C6 and 7 fused.

  3. Nicholas Weininger says:

    Shirts: do consider the custom route at least for a few workhorse shirts. Get a tailor or fashion-conscious friend to take your measurements, then order from Shirts My Way– the basic fabrics are $75/shirt which is no more than you’d pay for midrange off-the-rack at a Macy’s or Nordstrom’s or similar, the quality is better, and they fit properly. There are also cheaper online tailors like Ravi’s that do a reasonable job though their fabric quality is not as good.

    Dunno if they have sales on it or anything, but the product that has most changed my life in the past year is a Tom Bihn Smart Alec backpack. Truly the ultimate all-purpose bag: work bag, carry-on (suitable for 3-4 day trips or longer if you’re an ultralight travel type), day hike bag, everything. Impeccably nerdy design, unmatched modular expandability, and amazing quality.

    • Anonymous says:

      or just find the section of the store where the shirts have explicit neck sizes.

      • Nornagest says:

        Neck sizes in dress shirts are normally a proxy for the width of the cut: not just at the the neck but also the chest and waist. If you have an unusually wide neck relative to your body proportions, therefore, ordering to fit it is going to give you a shirt that fits like a tent.

        Seconding the custom route.

    • +1 on made-to-measure shirts. I go with MyTailor, which starts at about $50-$60/shirt and can go much higher for nicer fabrics. Possible downside: you might want to adjust measurements after the first shirt or two, so make them cheaper ones. Upsides are shirts that fit really nicely, exactly the options you want (for example, I typically prefer smaller arm-holes, pointy 90s-style collars, and no pockets), and a very wide range of patterns and fabrics.

    • Shenpen says:

      This sounds like a such a good idea after, not before, getting into shape. Who wants clothes that fit a beer belly perfectly?

      • Earnest_Peer says:

        Making clothes smaller is quite doable for a tailor, and shouldn’t cost very much (I’ve had my suit trousers widened for 12€ and expect similar costs for other work). From then on the question is how fast you think you will lose your weight, and how much fitting clothes are worth to you.

      • Anonymous says:

        You don’t know how long it will take you to get into shape, and you might as well have shirts you enjoy, especially if the cost isn’t a burden.

        If you’re up against collars that are too tight, that’s a significant loss of quality of life, and I can’t see putting up with it for months, especially if your neck might be getting larger from exercise.

      • drethelin says:

        In my experience the process of losing weight is not one of constant success and it’s good to have shirts that fit you at a few sizes.

    • RCF says:

      $75 is mid-range? That’s quite a large range there.

  4. drethelin says:

    Putting in another recommendation for hybrid tablet-laptops. I almost never use it as a pure tablet but I very often use the touchscreen as an impromptu pointer and to zoom in and out, but I still get a keyboard for typing and it runs a real OS.

  5. I’m misophonic too, and if you’re sensitive to human voices but not background noise, earplugs are the worst idea. They’re designed for industrial use, so they deliberately filter out pleasant mechanical noise and filter in human voices. I had much better luck with the sound-isolating earphones musicians use to filter out crowd noise. They work on background noise too. My friend’s wife thought he was fucking with her by moving around the vacuum without turning it on while she had the headphones in.

  6. zz says:

    I use these earmuffs and absolutely love them. They have nrr 31 instead of 30 and cost $10 more. I can’t speak comparatively about comfort, but the pair I have (the black ones) can be worn for hours on end with glasses and can take large amounts of abuse and be no worse for the wear.

    Also have these earplugs, which have the same nrr rating as Scott’s, but cost $0.154/pair, rather than $0.333/pair. I report being totally satisfied with them, although I cannot provide a comparative review.

    [meta]: For newcomers, Scott wrote a thing a while back explaining how he finds things worth buying on Amazon.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Didn’t you have an older product recommendation post? Maybe you should link to it.

  8. houseboatonstyx says:

    I have the unfortunately-named Bugbuster vacuum, which is totally simple to use and to empty: a clear tube with a plain cap that comes off for capture and then off for release. I’ve never seen a creature damaged by it, even a tiny spider smaller than a baby mosquito.

  9. Markus Ramikin says:

    First thought when reading this page:

  10. Rob Miles says:

    Regarding turning off your sense of hearing, I use pink noise, which works excellently for me. Basically pink noise is like white noise, except instead of having equal energy at all frequencies, it has equal energy in each octave.

    I’m not confident of the psychoacoustics of it, but my understanding is that we don’t perceive all frequencies within our hearing range with the same sensitivity, so the mathematically-even white noise actually sounds very harsh and unpleasant because it’s “loud” in the frequencies we’re most sensitive to. Pink noise more closely tracks how our hearing system works, so it sounds like level, even noise, and doesn’t sound unpleasant. The cool thing is though, because each “part” of the frequency range is being stimulated the same amount, with something that contains no signal, the auditory system’s built-in noise correction just filters it out completely. In other words, if all you can hear is pink noise, your brain will (after a few minutes) ‘re-zero’ its noise correction, and you subjectively stop perceiving any sound at all (until you consciously focus on your hearing, then you can hear it again for a bit).

    So when there’s a sound I’d rather not hear, I put in my earbuds (Senheisser CX300s, nothing fancy), use an app on my phone to generate some pink noise (I use ‘Noise Machine’), turn up the volume until it’s drowning out whatever I don’t want to hear, and then stop focusing on my hearing and do something else. It’s better to wear ear defenders over the earbuds if you’re blocking out something loud, since it reduces the volume of pink noise you need.

    I don’t have actual misophonia, so I don’t know if that condition affects the mechanism that makes this work for me, but it does work for me very well so it’s worth trying I think.

    • Noah Motion says:

      …we don’t perceive all frequencies within our hearing range with the same sensitivity…

      Indeed, we don’t. Wikipedia has a pretty good summary of the relevant psychoacoustics.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I don’t think I have misophonia, but a little while back I left in some standard ear plugs after some house work, and felt such a sense of peace. I definitely get overstimulated easily.

      Way back when I recall reading something (it may well have been pseudo-science) about how some folks have much more sensitive reticular activating systems than others, and that this can tie into increased introversion. I am only now, after all these years of marriage, realizing the extent to which my wife doesn’t perceive nearly as much as I do. Noises from the other side of the house or end of the driveway are silent to her; new things on the counter or floor don’t register, random buzzing noises simply don’t merit attention.

      This mismatch has been a significant source of conflict in our marriage. I always knew that I couldn’t feel the things she feels; I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that maybe she couldn’t see the things I see. Has there been much study about this kind of thing?

    • alexp says:

      Maybe the Wikipedia sound file didn’t do it justice, but I found it about as unpleasant as static on a tv.

  11. lmm says:

    I started getting finger pain when I typed a lot. Then I switched to Dvorak (just by changing the OS setting, I didn’t move the keys around our anything). It only took a weekend to adjust, and as a bonus I type a little faster.

    • Shenpen says:

      The malus is never being able to type on a keyboard you don’t own ever again. I explicity want to be not own-equipment-dependent – that I can get a new job and supplied with an office PC or maybe one day I will dare freelancing and the customer points to a computer I can use and I can use that instantly. I think having highly fine-tuned own equipment while can boost productivity through the roof, could make me dangerously dependent on them.

      • naath says:

        I re-trained myself to dvorak for similar RSI-ish reasons (actually I suspect that I’d just learned bad typing habits, and re-learning qwerty *properly* would have worked too); but I have *never* owned a dvorak keyboard. For about a month my keyboard had pen marks on it (they rubbed off pretty quick), and after that I could touchtype and have no need for a physical dvorak keyboard.

        The OS settings are easy, once you are used to them, but irritatingly the “add another keyboard layout” option is general administrator-only (switching between installed layouts isn’t) and most OSes default to having only US-qwerty. So using other people’s computers can be a pain but fortunately I rarely have to.

      • Typing in Dvorak doesn’t in the least require a Dvorak keyboard. I also use Dvorak, but have never even seen an actual Dvorak keyboard. I don’t look at the keys when I type (do you?) so the fact that the key I press to make a K looks like a V never even occurs to me except when I stop to think about it. The biggest downside for me is that in Dvorak I can only touch-type, and can’t remember where the keys are except by muscle-memory.

        Enabling the Dvorak keyboard layout on a new computer only takes a few seconds. If for some reason you don’t want to do this, I find that I can switch to Qwerty in a pinch, though I’m much slower at Qwerty than at Dvorak, and on Qwerty I do need to look at the keys.

      • fubarobfusco says:

        The malus is never being able to type on a keyboard you don’t own ever again.

        This isn’t my experience using Colemak. I’m definitely slower on QWERTY than I used to be, but I certainly can get by with it when I need to, which is usually kiosks and the like.

        At work, I do use some shared computers as well as a personal one; the shared computers have QWERTY, Dvorak, and Colemak all installed as options.

      • lmm says:

        There’s no special equipment, just an OS setting. And you don’t lose the ability to type in qwerty, though it takes a few seconds to mentally adjust.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Swapping mouse hands is also an easy one that takes less than a day to adjust. I additionally use a mouse at work and trackball at home just to vary it a little more.

      By far the biggest win for me RSI-wise was fixing my posture. I started getting back and occasional wrist pain just over a year into my professional career. Making myself sit up straight instead of slouching fixed it all.

  12. gwillen says:

    Not that they don’t look delicious — but is there a way to get mealsquares in less than a 30-pack?

    I live in Mountain View if anybody local has some I can sample.

  13. DiscoveredJoys says:

    Did you know that if you ‘strop’ a disposable razor/blade it will last much longer before it needs replacing? You strop it by running it backwards (only) over a piece of old denim or even your thigh.

    • Nestor says:

      I rinse mine with 96º antiseptic alcohol after use and use the same set for 6 or more months at a time. Way I read it, the blade isn’t so much blunt after use as accumulating deposits from the water/soap/skin, and washing them out with alcohol clears it out.

      Maybe I’m a nutter but my shave feels smooth, my skin is not abraded and I don’t have to give gillette 20 euros a month

    • Brian says:

      I recommend just getting rid of your disposable razor entirely.

      I shave woth a straight razor, which was an initial investment but has already paid for itself. Plus, it takes what was an unpleasant chore into a fun aesthetic ritual.

      Admittedly, the SR can be a little intense and time-consuming with all the stropping and stuff.

      As a perhaps-better alternative, a lot of people really enjoy double-edged razors. The DE razor uses a replacable blade – something like $0.10 for 50 or whatever – but gives a closer shave than those multi-bladed monstrosities.

      Basically, if you already own a strop, you should just make the jump and get into something more fun and effective.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Ok, it’s time for somebody to explain to me how I’m shaving wrong.

        Here is my razor plan: buy the cheapest electric shaver. Run it over my face each morning. Empty out the hair dust every so often. Replace the whole thing many years later, probably because it got lost or the battery no longer holds charge.

        What am I missing out on here? It doesn’t catch on my stubble, or cut my skin. I have not accidentally grown a beard.

        • Jadagul says:

          A lot of this depends on the texture of your facial hair and skin.

          A lot of people with sensitive skin feel like electric razors tear it up (this is apparently a true statement, but how much it matters depends a lot on how your facial skin started out).

          Hair is more complicated. Electric razors really only work on fairly stiff hair, from what I understand. On the other hand, they don’t give an actually close shave. My facial hair grows quickly and it’s stiff and scratchy–one of my first girlfriends actually got a callus on her chin. It also has the texture, basically, of velcro, so that if I rest my chin on someone’s head I will often pull her hair away with my face. Safety razor lets me get a really close shave so that doesn’t really happen; if I put in a few minutes, I can actually shave close enough that you can’t feel any stubble at all for a few hours.

        • Nestor says:

          I was an electric shaver user since last year, they don’t really give you the smooth feeling a good close shave with the razor does.

          As for straight razors, I like to shave in the shower, so safeties are a must, slipping in the shower with a straight razor in your hand would be fun.

        • Matthew says:

          I now have a beard (but not a neckbeard). In the past, however, I never found that an electric razor actually gave the smooth-as-a-baby’s-bottom result, and nothing less than that is acceptable to me for the parts of my face that I want to be clean-shaven.

        • Brian says:

          Your plan is definitely not wrong if you get out of it what you need! Wet shaving with a straight razor or double edge razor is not for everyone. Some people just want to remove hair from face, and that’s okay.

          However, I do enjoy the wet shaving experience more, for a few reasons:

          – I definitely get a closer shave with my straight razor. When I used to shave with an electric razor it painfully tugged at my face, the shave was uneven, and it was easy to miss patches.

          With a straight razor, my shave is much closer and cleaner because the instrument is so much sharper and because I have so much more control with it. My face ends up way smoother than it ever could have with an electric or cartridge razor.

          Here is a picture of a hair cut by a straight razor versus a hair cut by an electric razor under an electron microscope.

          The straight razor blade is only a few microns thick and it slices right through your hair when it’s properly honed and stropped. The electric razor, however, basically just mangles the hair off, which is why I always found it painful.

          Plus, it’s actually good for your skin. First, there’s none of the irritation from an electric razor, which pretty much eliminates bumps and redness. Second, your razor blade is sharp enough that it’s actually exfoliating off the top few layers of (dead) skin cells, keeping your face clear and healthy.

          – It’s just fucking cool. Before I started shaving with a straight razor, I treated shaving as an unpleasant chore. I used the simplest implement to get the job done as quickly as possible, and didn’t care much about the results so long as they were minimally socially adequate.

          When I use my straight razor, shaving becomes an aesthetic experience. The entire process of stropping the razor, showering, lathering up my brush and face, carefully running the blade through my hairs, washing down everything, applying witch hazel and aftershave, and drying and restroping the razor for storage becomes a meditative ritual. During that time, I’m solely focused on the task at hand.

          The razor itself is a thing of beauty–at once a work of art and an instrument of fearsome efficiency.

          I feel the same way about the rest of the equipment. Using a block of soap and a nice white-tipped badger brush is a pleasure. The brush is soft and soothing, the lather is creamy and smells good.

          The smell is a pretty big part of it, too. The soaps and aftershaves I use all smell great. The stuff that comes in a can just doesn’t have the same effect.

          Plus, there’s something to be said for shaving your face with a razor blade that could easily slice you open – even kill you – if you’re not careful. It puts life into context.

          So, I’ve turned what used to be a meaningless and unpalatable experience into a part of my life that I am joyfully and fully present in. I figure that if taking empty experiences and making them full and wonderful isn’t the good life, I’m not sure what is.

          – Finally, shaving with a straight razor or double edged razor is ostensibly cheaper.

          If you buy the cheapest quality razor you can and a solid strop, you can literally use that same razor for the rest of your life and pass it on to your grandson. The brush is a little less durable, but can still last years or decades if properly cared for. Beyond that, you’re just paying for soap and yearly or bi-yearly honing, depending on how frequently you shave. So, a $150 initial investment, then ~$20 yearly upkeep costs. You can also learn to hone, buy yourself a set of honing stones, and never pay for anything again besides soap.

          A double edge razor is actually a little cheaper. You can find a quality razor for between $20 and $50 dollars, and the disposable blades themselves are as little as $0.10 per blade and last around a week or so shaving every day.

          On the flip side, my buddy says he pays about $100 a year in disposable cartridges for his Gillette. Electric razors are pretty expensive too, and I never had good luck with mine lasting.

          However, the cost argument is actually the least important part of it for me. The marginal cost benefit is so small I don’t really notice it.

          Plus, the reason I said “ostensibly” at the beginning of this point is because a lot of people who get into wet shaving end up making it a hobby. It’s easy and fun to collect new razors, brushes, soaps, &c.

          I recently bought a beautiful antique straight razor with gold inlay and ivory plating on the tang that I intend to have professionally rescaled and honed so I can shave with it. The thing is gorgeous and still sharp enough to cut me; it’s certainly older than I am, and probably older than my father.

          So if cost is important to you, sit down and calculate out exactly how much you’d spend on each of the options, then optimize for that.

          But if money is no object, buy a nice silver-tipped badger brush and that gorgeous mammoth ivory-scaled straight razor I keep looking at wistfully and go nuts.

          So, my friend, that is what you are missing out on with your cheapest electric shaver.

        • William O. B'Livion says:

          Are you happy with the results?

  14. Rachael says:

    I’m intrigued by MealSquares (as an occasional can’t-be-bothered meal replacement), and looking forward to them being available outside the US.

  15. Scott says:

    Scott, for full disclosure are these all affiliate links?

    Also re:shaving, if you’re going down the money saving route you might as well commit and get a safety razor (non-affiliate link). Your bulk Dorco prices comes out to about $1.13 for a fresh blade, whereas a fresh blade for a safety razor comes to about $0.07 after an initial $30 outlay for the razor. Assuming you use four set of blades a month, you’ll make your money back in 7 months, that first year you’ll save $23, and you’ll save $55 every year thereafter (which isn’t as big as the $126/yr savings from going from gillette to dorco, but still adds up). And there’s also a certain retro appeal to it.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yes. There’s a bar stating that at the bottom, and an “Amazon” tab explaining that on the top.

    • Thomas Eliot says:

      I also came to the comments to recommend safety razors. I switched a year ago and have never looked back.

      • Peter says:

        These are well reputed, but not for everyone. I tried them and couldn’t get as nice a shave with the same amount of blood, so I eventually gave up on them. Then again, I have one, possibly two non-neurotypical conditions which carry a predisposition for klutziness, so I may well be atypical.

        The other thing they say is that getting a nice badger-hair shaving brush and some nice shaving creme helps especially with safety razors. Well, it’s nice to have even with Mach IIIs.

  16. Schrodinger's Hat says:

    Playing off the comment you passed on over-sensitivity to noise, have you ever tried entering an anechoic chamber like the one they have in orfeld labs? I dont know whether its a particularly expensive endeavour or anything though…

  17. BenSix says:

    I charge MealSquares with false advertising. (That is clearly more of a cuboid.)

  18. Shenpen says:

    Re: portable speakers – is there any zero-difficulties way to get into music? It sounds like another comment for the “what universal human experience you are missing out on?” but for me music has always been a social thing, I never really figured out this sit down at the living room and listen to music alone or with my wife and baby kind of stuff. The amount of possible selection is pretty much overwhelming and turning me off on its own – it is a kind of choice freeze. An ideal solution would be a randomized high-quality selection, random Grooveshark, except without the extra overhead to 1) think about wanting to spend some time on listening to music 2) turn on the sound on the computer which is usually muted 3) navigate to the website etc. Ideal it would turn itself on at random times during the day and play a random song but turn off back again once it hears loud cussing.

    • Jaskologist says:

      As somebody who also put zero points into “Art” back when I first rolled my character, this talk is the only time I can recall having truly appreciated music.

    • Kaminiwa says:

      I doubt you’ll ever be able to avoid the overhead of #1 and #2, and #3 would probably require writing a custom application. If you’re willing to live with that overhead, however, I can suggest a couple sites: It will recommend 4-5 possible “moods” based on time of day and some degree of geo-location to try and determine if you’re at work. From there, it gives you 3 possible “stations” – it automatically starts playing the first, but the other two are nice if the first one isn’t *quite* what you wanted.

      There’s also Pandora if you want more precise customization: you seed a station with various songs you like, and it uses the Music Genome Project to select other similar songs for that station.

      I personally tend to prefer Songza since I can easily change to a new mood without needing to build a bunch of custom stations. I mostly use Pandora for listening to stations my friends play when I’m being social (since I already know I like them!).

    • Deiseach says:

      The amount of possible selection is pretty much overwhelming and turning me off on its own

      Stupid obvious comments from stupid obvious person: what kind of music do you find enjoyable/tolerable in a social situation? For example, I can’t stand jazz. It’s not that I hate it; it’s just that about two minutes of any variety of jazz and I go “That’s my quota for the year”.

      That’s about as useful as I can be when it comes to recommending searching through all the kinds of music out there: find what you can broadly say “yeah, that’s okay” and then narrow it down from there.

    • Anonymous says:

      Most people get songs spontaneously stuck in their head, and that’s how they decide in the absence of randomization. More musical people often start singing along or doodling extra bits onto the music in their heads, and that makes it even more enjoyable. Or changing emotional states, especially to dancy ones.

      • zz says:

        tl;dr: have played cello for over half my life, can confirm. Your Mileage will almost certainly Vary.

        In my youth, I spent ~10 years as an orchestral cellist and ~7 years in a cello quartet trying to be Apocalyptica. In the latter position, I spent a lot of time arranging music; if it was written for 3-4 parts and we had 3-5 cellists, then I was the one rewriting it to fit our current ensemble size, as well as some attempts to rewrite other pieces (including the Imperial March, Love is in Bloom, Bunnies and Mozart 25) in the style of metal. Before, I didn’t really listen to music. After, I started listening to music for pleasure, but only if it lent itself to being metal-ified. I still don’t go orchestral concerts because it’s boring to listen to, rather than play, music. So, getting to a certain level of musicianship can help you enjoy music, but I’ve found it also ruins a good portion of it. (Spending a decade as an orchestral musician also means you have a lot of musician friends and I’m the only one I know who doesn’t get anything out of going to the orchestra. I can’t quite grok why they’d rather watch other people play rather than play themselves and they can’t quite grok why I don’t enjoy listening to professional musicians.)

    • Susebron says:

      This may take more effort than you want, but it’s a good way to deal with the vast selection of choices: Pic a few random songs, or a few songs which sound interesting, and listen to them. Repeat until you find a couple of songs you like Keep listening to the artists you like, and find similar artists. If all else fails when it comes to finding similar artists, go to a Youtube video for a song you like, and click on one of the related videos.

      • Matthew says:

        Do Pandora or Spotify have “sampler” channels? That would be an easy way to do it. Pandora will adjust in response to you thumbing things up or down, too.

        • Susebron says:

          Spotify has a Pandora-like radio and a “Related Artists” for those who already know a few artists they like, and the “Browse” tab has a whole set of playlists for various genres. No clue about Pandora.

          • ozymandias says:

            Pandora is MY FAVORITE way to discover new music. As long as you know at least one song you like, you can create a radio station and find an infinite number of other songs you like.

  19. Shenpen says:

    I very rarely find non-organic products that can make my life significantly easier. However for organics I recommend everybody to get 150 or 200 mg L-Theanine (Suntheanine) pills from Amazon and combine with a caffeine pill if you have generally no problems with caffeine. Of of all the nootropics / mood enchancers I tried this is the only one that is so good that I wonder how it is legal. It gives a non-anxious yet very energetic, focused, concentrated and fairly happy high what the usual signals of dry mouth and suppressed hunger that suggests there is some serious central nervous system stimulation going on. Originally recommended for social anxiety, it turned out it is very good for any kind of anxiety. Including the one caffeine causes, it takes it away, while adds extra stimulation beside the caffeine one on its own.

    • Ken Arromdee says:

      Is spam okay if it is by chance on-topic?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I avoided recommending supplements because I don’t want to deal with the ethical issues, but I agree this is useful. For lazy/scatter-brained people like myself, there is a pill that combines caffeine and theanine so you don’t have to take both.

        • Anonymous says:

          Hes a resident, and it is apparently unethical for people who are certifiably informed about medicine to give informal medical advice, lest people overestimate how informed they are about that particular bit of advice due to the certification…

          ….which ironically means those who are most informed give the least advice. Ethics are funny that way, but his reluctance is understandable given the professional code.

          I find do find it weird that the medical community finds *that* to be a place where they think they need to manage people’s tendency to weigh information sources incorrectly, given all the other places which would benefit from those sorts of considerations.

  20. Viliam Búr says:

    For Europeans who want some artificial food, here is Joylent.

  21. moridinamael says:

    Back in February I was inspired by a product review post you wrote to make my own product recommendations on a private mailing list. My recommendations were:

    Scarves, for cold weather. I have always hated the cold. After I started wearing scarves, I stopped minding it and now kind of enjoy it.

    I have gotten tremendous mileage out of my MacBook Air. But maybe that’s because it serves my need for a laptop that I can effectively use on a train commute.

    I realized at some point that dry cleaners were a thing. Prior to that, I had been washing and ironing my own work shirts and slacks. This recommendation is targeted at the small fraction of people who need to wear ironed shirts but haven’t yet tried using a dry cleaning service.

    • ckp says:

      >This recommendation is targeted at the small fraction of people who need to wear ironed shirts but haven’t yet tried using a dry cleaning service.

      *raises hand*

    • William O. B'Livion says:


      There is a difference between “Dry Cleaners” and “Laundry Service”. For most men’s shirts (e.g. cotton and cotton/poly) your shirt will almost always be laundered and pressed, not dry cleaned. Older dry cleaning solvents were really bad for cotton (and brain cells, they were also aromatic hydrocarbons). I think most places have switched to newer chemistry for dry cleaning, so it’s probably not as harsh.

      Also if you are wearing nice shirts tell them no starch. Starch tends to weaken the fabric over time (creases instead of gently bending) reducing the life of your shirt. Unless you’re getting married, going to court or a job interview.

      Wool coats and trousers are generally dry-cleaned and pressed.

      If you have nice clothes you particularly value consider trying to find a “French Laundry”. These tend to use more hand finishing/attention to detail than the guy down on the corner. They also charge more.

      When I lived in Redwood City I used these guys: They weren’t cheap, but they were *good*. They also have shops up in S.F.

  22. awp says:

    Re: custom fitting earplugs
    Go to your nearest hearing aid outfit. They squirt the gel directly into your ear for a custom fit. I never have to pay for new ones, although I do pay $3000 every three years or so for the aids, so they might make them cheap for non-hearing impaired.

    • Anonymous says:

      Its a good idea with respect to making the shape work, but i doubt that gel is designed with blocking sounds in mind?

      Although since they have squirting equipment and there exists gel that *is* designed with that in mind, they might pick that up as a side service.

      • awp says:

        I think they do have to be able to block sounds pretty well in order to prevent feedback from the microphone and speaker. I can’t vouch because in and out is just comparing levels of profound deafness.

  23. Jos says:

    I’m pretty excited about Motorola’s sale on the Moto X – $140 off an unlocked phone starting at 12 EST today.

  24. Noah Motion says:

    If I click on the link, say, to the speakers in the post, will this allow me to buy them through your Amazon affiliate link (or whatever the thing on the sidebar is called)? Or would I have to click the sidebar link and then find the speakers from there?

  25. Jim says:

    I have a set of Etymotic ER20 earplugs I got a while ago and they’re quite nice. They’re designed to reduce the incoming sound amplitude more or less evenly across the frequency range, so they’re more useful for concerts and things where you still want to hear something but with the volume turned down, versus blocking everything out completely. But they’re still pretty good.

  26. alexp says:

    If you’re a man having trouble with shirt that don’t fit your body shape, you should get the shirt tapered. You can get it done at a local tailor (or Men’s Wearhouse) for around $10-$20 a shirt. It might be pricey, but a man can easily get away with a 5 or 6 shirt rotation for a white collar office setting.

  27. Illuminati Initiate says:

    For some reason I have a reluctance to kill insects despite not considering them morally relevant. I guess it’s an alief/belief thing, like being scared of the dark for me (or bugs for Scott, apparently). I even feel urges to take struggling insects out of the water. I think its a holdover from when I was a kid and did try to not hurt bugs.

    Also, the image of Ozy having to take bugs outside for Scott is both hilarious and adorable.

  28. Shmi Nux says:

    Scott, I hope you are or soon will be reading (or better, listening to) The Slow Regards of Silent Things. And posting both literary and medical review of it. If you haven’t read the first two books, this rather short story stands on its own and does not spoil anything. Not a Cyber Monday deal, unfortunately 🙂

    • Kiya says:

      I think that if someone tries to read Slow Regard of Silent Things without having read at least Name of the Wind, they will be very confused and unsure whether they’re supposed to be, as opposed to being fairly confused and aware that this is okay.

  29. Deiseach says:

    The only time I was ever mistaken for a member of the medical (or allied) profession was when I was buying good, comfortable walking shoes for my job that entailed standing most of the day.

    Upon asking the sales assistant for a shoe that fit that description, the first thing she asked me was “Are you a nurse?” 🙂

    Recommended brand was Ecco – a bit expensive, but worth it as they were indeed comfortable and supportive for all-day on your feet and hardwearing. They can also be a bit stylish if you’re not the type, like me, that goes “Lace-up, low heel, black – that’s as fancy as I get”. This would be exactly the style of shoe I wear daily.

    • William O. B'Livion says:

      My mom was a nurse for ~35 years.

      I swear she’s got 10 *identical* pairs of Birkenstocks in various states of wear and another 10 pair of various models. At one point she had close to 100 pairs of shoes. I think she got rid…No, they’re probably in a box somewhere.

  30. Azure says:

    Are you looking specifically for ‘slim fit’ shirts? The traditional men’s shirt was made with a very, very full body. A ‘slim fit’ (some companies even sell ‘ultra slim fit’ or similar) shirt is tailored so that you have much less front for the same amount of neck.

  31. Anthony says:

    It’s probably not a suitable gift for most people, but if your sex life includes frequent use of condoms, buy them on Amazon. I paid $14 for 100 of a type that usually costs about $1/each retail.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is definitely good to know, since condoms are one of those cases where trivial inconvenience can really add up to disaster.

      Makes a good joking-but-actually-dead-serious gift

  32. eqdw says:

    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.

    I’ve been singing the praises of Work Slippers forever, and very few people take me seriously. Glad someone agrees with me. 😀

  33. Platypus says:

    I had some bad (meaning, intestinally bad) experiences with expired Soylent. My experience suggested that even the powdered form can go bad if you unseal the package, seal it back up, and leave it in the fridge for a week.

    I was looking at MealSquares and I noticed their product says its shelf life is “2+ weeks at room temperature”. Is that sealed-package or unsealed? How much of that time is taken up by shipping?

    • Izaak Weiss says:

      This I would also like to know, and I’m commenting in lieu of an upvote button.

    • Nate Gabriel says:

      I’m pretty sure that’s meant to be sealed, but I’ve left a packet on the shelf for longer than that before eating. It was unsealed most of the time. If anything went Horribly Wrong, I didn’t notice.

    • zz says:

      Why doesn’t everyone DIY soylent? It costs less (at least, where I am), most of your ingredients have a more-or-less indefinite shelf-life, and you can control your lipid profile/carb:lipid ratio/protein consumption (which should be a function of your body mass, composition, and how you want to change your body comp). And it takes all of 2 min/day to prepare.

    • Shipping is 3 days max inside the US. The shelf life is referring to sealed bags. Once unsealed they should be refrigerated if they are going to remain uneaten for more than a few days. There isn’t really an exact expiration because they basically don’t go bad in a way that’s harmful. Like bread, it’s down to whenever mold shows up.

  34. drethelin says:

    Since people are giving Shaving Tips: The most important difference I’ve noticed is with shaving in the shower. Shaving in the Shower with hot water running and rinsing off your razor while you use it makes a huge difference to me, way bigger than 5 vs 2 blade disposables, safety razor, or electric. Caveat: I still haven’t tried a classic cut-throat razor.

    Also: I decided to make a Slate Star Codex IRC channel. It’s #slatestarcodex on

    • Mike Blume says:

      +1, this is the only way I can stand to shave at all.

    • Anonymous says:

      One alternative (for those who procrastinate shaving because they hate it and don’t mind the stubble) is to just use a very close trimmer.

      Personally, I think the stubbly look is actually a nice compromise between impeccably-neat-babyfaced-cherub and rugged-caveman-terrorist-hobo.

      (Note that unlike razors, trimmers often work better for dry hair since it sticks out more)

    • James D says:

      Classic straight razor works OK (not great, because you can’t see as well even with a non-steam mirror in the shower with you), but you have to be very confident in your grip on the scales to try it.

  35. Setsize says:

    Hearos are a little big for my ear canals, but there are a whole lot of slightly different brands with slightly different sizes and materials. Luckily, sells sampler packs with one of each model, which I recommend getting.

  36. Kevin says:

    MealSquares look interesting, but they’re unfortunately lactose-heavy. I hope they eventually come up with a version that is digestible for the majority of the human population.

    • Anonymous says:

      AFAIK lactose-intolerant people are the minority in the US.

      • Matthew says:

        That is probably correct, since most Europeans (other than Ashkenazi Jews) have the adult lactase genotype, and the US is majority-white. But most Asians don’t, and the majority of the world’s human population is Asian.

        • Anthony says:

          Mediterranean Europeans don’t often have the adult lactase genotype, either. In some parts of the U.S., that makes a difference to the population numbers.

  37. Amanda L. says:

    Can someone describe what the MealSquares taste like? Also is there any aftertaste? (that’s my general complaint about many protein bars and such, weird aftertaste)

    • Anon says:

      Unremarkable plus some chocolate. Not particularly good, or bad, or notable. The sort of thing you can forget you’re eating while you’re eating it (which for me is great!) I experience no aftertaste whatsoever.

      Very dense and a liiiiiittle bit dry; I find I need to have a glass of water or milk to go with.

    • Anonymous says:

      I generally describe them as tasting like a very dense muffin.

  38. DrBeat says:

    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.

    This isn’t a ‘bugzooka’ unless the bug-ejection is pneumatic too. and you can fling bugs at your neighbors.

  39. You know what would be quite useful on a Bugzooka? A reverse flow mode…

  40. MugaSofer says:

    Re: Shirts:

    I’m pretty sure most people find shirt collars too tight, and it’s some sort of signalling thing (formalwear isn’t supposed to be comfortable, it’s supposed to show you’re making an effort to look respectable.) I attend a school with a shirt as apart of our uniform, and it’s just sort of unspoken that everyone will wear their collar open because it’s to uncomfortable otherwise.

    • Creutzer says:

      I have the suspicion that the “formalwear isn’t supposed to be comfortable” may be a rationalisation that was made up when people were i) no longer used to a closed shirt with a tie and ii) didn’t put effort into buying dress shirts that were a good fit in that department because they would wear them like that so rarely anyway. And of course nobody would put much effort into seeing to it that some lads in high school got well-fitting shirts, because who cares about adolescents.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah, when I discovered how to buy shirts with sized necks, I abruptly went from shirts with too tight collars to worrying about how tight my tie was. I had always been confused as a child about the idea of loosening a tie. There’s no point if the collar is the limiting factor, if your shirt doesn’t fit. But I don’t wear ties, and it’s unfashionable to button the top button without a tie, so I only bother making 1/3 of my collars fit.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        It’s not that no one cares about adolescents, it’s that formal wear tends to be expensive and rarely worn (especially in that age group) and they’re changing *fast*.

        • Creutzer says:

          I was thinking specifically of MugaSofa’s case where a dress shirt was part of the school uniform – there the “rarely worn” argument doesn’t apply. Changing fast – well, up to a certain age, yes, but I’d be surprised if anybody cared about it when they were 16, either.

    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      Formalwear is a coordination problem where it is pointless and uncomfortable but no one person can stop because they would not be accepted for “important” things if they did. I have no idea how to solve this either, even if you outlawed discrimination based on dress, how are you going to enforce that?

      • Creutzer says:

        I don’t think this is accurately described as a coordination problem. Far as they may culturally be, on average, from the audience of this blog, some people would rather enjoy living in a world where everyone defects frequently (i.e. wears formal clothes and expects other to do so).

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        It is not physically uncomfortable if done well. A big part of the discomfort (aside from poor fit) is the situation and being afraid of damaging the clothing.

    • Jadagul says:

      First, I will stand up as the person who actually enjoys formal wear. The main reason I don’t wear a suit every day is arguably that people would look at me funny and wearing not-a-suit is my way of adapting to social norms. (The other main reason is that my suits are nice and also expensive and I don’t want to trash them. But if I could wear a suit every day I would spend more of my budget on suits and less on things that aren’t suits).

      Second, theoretically your dress shirt collar is supposed to fit snugly enough that it moves with your neck. Some people are super sensitive to having anything closed around their necks and this really bugs them. (Though I got used to it, for what it’s worth). Outside of that demographic, a lot of the major problems come from an uncanny valley effect. If the collar is super loose then it might as well not be closed, and it’s fine. If the collar fits snugly, it moves with you and it’s fine. If it’s in between, it’s really uncomfortable to have your neck turning inside your collar.

      Third, as people have said elsewhere in the thread, American dress shirts, especially the ones that aren’t labeled as “fitted,” are tailored for someone rather wide at the waist. If you have a trim waist, then any shirt that fits at the collar will be incredibly billowy at the waist. I recommend getting a fitted or even ultra-fitted shirt, or going the online tailor route.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        At my current job I was *explicitly* instructed not to wear grown up clothing. Although they didn’t put it that way.

    • Anthony says:

      On the contrary, formalwear done right is actually quite comfortable, provided it’s weather-appropriate. The problem is that formalwear is not much used in the U.S., so most people aren’t willing to invest enough to actually get comfortable formalwear, and instead buy poorly-fitted off-the-rack formal clothes, and put up with the discomfort for the few occasions when it’s needed. It’s possible to buy comfortable, well-fitted formal clothes off the rack, but it requires finding a better store and paying more (though still less than having clothes tailored), and most Americans aren’t willing to put in the effort and money.

  41. Pingback: Boricua Televisions and Home Theater » Upstar P32EE7 32-Inch 720p 60Hz LED TV

  42. I had never actually previously heard of Codex Seraphinianus and it immediately intrigued me. My boyfriend now owns a copy! I would have tried putting off gifting it to him until Christmas at least, but I’m objectively terrible at keeping things stashed and putting them off, so he got his present early.

    His reaction: “Is this a puzzle book? *opens first content page* …nooooo. *opens next content page* …NOOOO.”

    To translate that for you: He loves it.

    Thank you for the recommendation. I know I’ll be passing it on!