12 Material Improvements

by soozkim

People will tell you that the best things in life are free and that your material possessions are ultimately unnecessary.  In principle, this is probably true.  But every once in a while you stumble across a thing (or 12) that makes a material difference in your life.

Some jobs have been waiting for the right tool.  Some desires are inarticulable until their object appears.

a) Twitter lists
I don’t use Twitter correctly.  I have yet to get the hang of it.  The etiquette, the lingo, the pacing, the purpose.  Mostly, I  just mumble to myself there.  I was leery of following too many for fear of drowning in Tweets.  But Twitter lists make it possible to segment your feed into manageable chunks.  Plus, you can add someone to a list without following them if you just want to listen or to get a feel for their feed.

b) Amazon Prime
Free shipping on most purchases.  Did I send you something for Christmas this year?  That’s right.  You’re welcome.  (or, uh,  it’s in the mail…?)  I keep thinking that I will need to ship more than $79 worth of shipping costs to avoid feeling like a chump.  “Free” two day shipping it has unloosened the strings to my purse considerably.  Added to this there is instant video streaming of selected titles and a lending library from which you can borrow Kindle books.  I am prepared to become a total shut in.

c) SMS Backup & Restore

This app for the Android allows you to back up your text messages in XML format.  You can restore them, email them, upload them to DropBox or Google Drive.  I, a lot, love this app.

d)) Hyperbole and a Half – the book
Like rest of the internet, I am a HUGE Allie Brosh fan.  Her website Hyperbole and a Half is the kind of funny that can cause chest pains from laughing too hard to breathe.  (<- understatement).  And now there is a book.  I bought it at the airport.  I actually laughed out loud.  I laughed my ass off.  I did not roll on the floor laughing.  But I was brought to tears of laughter, which I think needs to become it’s own acronym: BTTOL.  Some of the stories are from her website.  Some are new.  The transition of reading her work in the infinite scroll of a computer screen to a thing with pages was handled really well.  Page turns don’t feel like interruptions.  I wish the book were bigger, allowing the pictures and lettering to be bigger for my weary ancient eyes.  In addition to the laughs, there is a brutal insight and breathtaking honesty in her work.  I am sure that she is not revealing everything but it feels so brave and unflinching.

I recognize myself in what she is saying and am able to laugh at what often causes me enormous pain, embarrassment, shame and frustration – The Motivation Game, Thoughts and Feelings, Identity Part One and Identity Part Two all delve into predicaments that might not be resolvable.  But to recognize them and laugh, at least allows a momentary sense of proportion and perhaps a moment of forgiveness.  Thank you, Allie.

e) The B&W Kindle

I stole one from my father recently when he upgraded to a color reader.  I have read two books on it.  If you are travelling and reading something for fun, this reader is the way to go.  Mostly because all it does is display books.  There is no distraction of the internet to lure you away from one pleasure with another.  It’s enough like a book to like it.

f) Read-later apps

The internet torments me by offering up amazing things to read which I cannot locate or refer to later.  Twitter and Facebook exacerbate this to the extreme.  All those unread, open browser tabs.  I have tried emailing links to myself, saving them to a notebook program like Evernote or Springpad or pasting them into Notepad files  on my computer.  Sometimes this works but a lot of times it doesn’t. Read-later apps have helped to create a place where I can store what I want to read later and keep track of what I have already read.

Diigo.com is a lot like delicious.com, and provides a simple place on the web where you can store links of interest, tag them and leave a note/comment on the link.  What Diigo adds in addition to this is the ability to quickly save a page to “Read Later”  Diigo will save the url to their site, under your account for you to reference later.  You can also annotate the page, and highlight passages of interest and put sticky notes on the page.  Which makes it awesome for research.  You can also take screenshots and cache pages – which I have not done.  There are probably ways to organize your library cleanly, I just have an endless reverse chronological list of things that are read or to read.

Pocket is an awesome app for reading.  You can share articles of interest with Pocket and then access them on your computer or your other devices.  You can access the articles through Pocket even where you do not have access to the internet.  And Pocket will display articles in a clean format without banners and extraneous links.  You can’t comment or take notes or highlight.  It won’t display pdf’s, video or audio.  But it’s a real pleasure to read.  Pocket queues it up for you.  When you are done you can archive things and clear them from your list without deleting them.

They both seem to have a social component that I am currently supremely uninterested in but should probably check out.

I have heard good things about Instapaper and Readability and look forward to trying them and others!

g) Marc Jacobs Magic Marc’r Precision Pen – liquid eyeliner
I got it into my head one day that I wanted to draw attention to my eyes beyond the super nerdy glasses that frame them and started using liquid eyeliner pens.  The Cover Girl one is okay but dries up pretty quickly.  The Loreal one is terrible – like taking a dried out sharpie to your eye and it smells weird.  Joe Fresh does a nice one that is pretty affordable and available in multiple colors.  It is also water soluble and apt to get all over your face.  I wake up with it on my pillows after long party nights.  Stila makes a very nice one.  It’s a bit pricey but it has a nice flow and consistency.  But Marc Jacobs makes an AMAZING  liquid eyeliner pen.  AMAZING.  In just one color – blacquer.  It has great flow, the color is dark, the consistency of the liner is just right, the brush of the pen – it’s the priciest of the bunch but just so good.  The pen itself is a bit heavier and feels solid with a good balance in the way that a Montblanc fountain pen might as compared with a Bic ballpoint.  One of these days I will figure out how to draw a decent cat eye on myself and the Magic Marc’r will make it all the more fabulous.

h) Lumene Pure Radiance Day Cream SPF 15, Vitamin C+ with Arctic Cloudberry

As a lady gets older, she might find that her face needs a bit more in the way of love – especially in the colder weather.  My skin has gotten dry, dry, dry.  After trying several drug store products that do nothing for me, I broke down and spent the equivalent of two nights at a wine bar on a schmancy Lancome cream which does the job.  But then, on a whim at CVS, I purchased a trial sized sampler of the Lumene product from Finland.  I gotta tell you, it works great for dry, chapped scaly faces and at a very friendly price. When it comes to skin, those Fins don’t play.

i) EOS Lip Balm

It’s a big egg shaped solid lip balm.  The consistency is very satisfactory.  The shape of the container makes it really easy to find in your purse.  The screw top makes it a safer product to jostle around loose in a bag.  And there’s just something ergonomically pleasing about it.  I am not sure why it is more enjoyable than a chapstick.   I could make a joke about the satisfaction of putting something big to your lips.  But that would just be silliness.

j) Chime Ginger Chews
I was introduced to them while travelling with JK.  She carries them to settle her stomach.  I had some travel related belly issues and partook of some and was hooked.  This Indonesian candy is wickedly, kickingly gingery, sweet and chewy.  The sweet treat is made from 3-5 pronounceable, familiar ingredients depending on whether your chews are just ginger flavored or additionally flavored with Peppermint, Orange, Mango or Peanut Butter (of all things).  Additionally, they come in a very attractive metal tin.

k) Bissenger’s Gummy Pandas
“This snack is $6.50” the checkout clerk observed disapprovingly at the Hudson News Stand at the airport.  I nodded and handed her my cash.  Bissenger’s is a chocolatier based in St. Louis.  As a kid I used to go with my parents.  The main attraction was the chocolate.  But I always made a point of also asking to for a small bag of their gummy cola bottles.  And now they are in the gourmet Gummy Panda business.  So far I have had Apricot Green Tea, and Blueberry Acai.  I made short work of each – scarfing them down to nothing without realizing it.  As a warning, the Apricot Green Tea Gummies have powdered green tea in them and might keep you up until the wee hours, if you are not careful.   Next up are the Pink Grapefruit Grapeseed.  (at Whole Foods they sell them for less)

l) Samsung Galaxy S4

I had my previous phone for about 3 years.  I got it for $0.01 with a contract renewal.  I loved it.  But – it had a really short battery life and never really did all the things that I thought a smart phone was supposed to do.  Towards the end it could not support the apps that I wanted to use, would lock up and power off randomly, and was constantly running out of memory.  Those days are behind me.  I have a new phone and while it is loaded down with AT&T and Samsung bloatware and while I have not figured out even a fraction of the things that it can do, I like it very much.  It’s big enough to read on.  Perhaps big enough to watch things on and for the first time, I am considering listening to music and podcasts on my phone.  So far, so happy.