Too many choices

Fairywill electric toothbrush showing brushing modes

Our lives are too complicated.

My electric toothbrush, a “Fairywill,” courtesy of a small Chinese manufacturer, has five brushing choices: White, Clean, Sensitive, Polish and Massage.

I try to keep it on Clean, the middle-of-the-road choice. Every once in a while, I mistakenly hold down the single button to turn it off too long and it changes the mode.


It takes messing around with the toothbrush for several minutes until I can get it back into the Clean mode again.

Of course, I threw away the little slip of paper that told me what to do a long time ago.

Like most products purchased from small Chinese manufacturers, there may or may not be an online instructions manual. (I did find these instructions which may or may not be there in a few years.)

But why did they give me so many choices to start with?

What if I want my teeth to be white and polish and massage them at the same time? That’s not an option.

Simpler would be better.

When I was a teenager, I loved choices. Now that I’m older, I appreciate a product that just does it right out of the box.


The value of analog

Top of homemade letterhead

Slow can be better.

Taking time to write a letter by hand adds value to communication that is just not part of an email or a text message.

Hand-written communication is much more personal than reading someone’s thoughts on a screen.

And you can personalize your letter with an additional layer of communication… using a custom letterhead. Above, you can see a simple letterhead I made by clipping the Onyx logo off one of their amazing coffee packages.

The coffee mug my daughter made is worth far more to me than the fine Starbucks mug I picked up at the Goodwill.

A watch that is hand-made in Switzerland is worth more than an Apple watch made mostly by machines in China.

More time invested in producing an object is often reflected in the final value. A Singer Porsche can cost $1,000,000 – compared to a new Porsche 911 starting at a sweet $114,000.

So write a letter. It’s an easy way to share yourself with a friend.

If you liked this, I also wrote about how slowing down can improve your life and the value of retro things.


The folly of luxury

Paul wearing Apple AirPods Max headphones

A small windfall hit me like welcome summer rain. I decided to celebrate by getting a pair of Apple AirPods Max.

Ebay was the perfect shopping destination. I found a pair in great condition in happy neutral space gray at way less than retail.

Setting them up was super easy. The software interface was very simple to use and had numerous options.

Then reality hit…

  1. The biggest problem I faced was intolerable sound when listening with noise cancellation. My favorite podcasts sounded like the participants were speaking from inside a small narrow tunnel.
  2. Listening in an airplane almost worked. But each time we took off, there was a loud “pop” that Apple’s software injected after detecting a sound made by the airplane.
  3. The magnificent quality construction resulted in a heavy pair of headphones. After an hour or so of listening, they started to get uncomfortable.
  4. The Smart Case seemed like an afterthought. Its design was about a tenth as good as the headphones’ design.
  5. A very minor glitch in the software meant that it never remembered the noise cancellation modes I selected.

So, goodbye AirPods Max. I sold them yesterday on Facebook Marketplace.

I enjoyed exploring this product that I had always been curious about. I only lost $20 in the exchange.

I left with a nice little reminder that the only satisfaction available will be in heaven.

And then I went back to a modest pair of Sony phones.


Gotta love those algorithms

A message from Alexa on a Kindle screen: "Alexa, what should I read next?"

My Kindle served up this message last week: “Alexa, what should I read next?”

For some reason, that offended me. Why should I listen to what Alexa tells me about what I should be reading? Won’t I just be playing into the hands of Alexa’s father, Amazon?

But then I stepped back.

Spotify’s algorithms have done a fine job of serving up fresh music to me for a few years now. I’m a devoted fan of their “Discover Weekly” playlist, which provides new music to me based on the tunes I like. They don’t always get on-target… some of the bands and tunes have been a little too weird. And lately, they are serving up too much of the kind of music I enjoy. I like to find music that stretches my boundaries … but not too far.

So let’s ride those algorithms… but let go when it gets too choppy.


Sent from my iPhone

Did you know that you can change the signature at the bottom of emails that you send from your smartphone? It’s easy.

  1. Go to your phone’s settings.
  2. Select mail.
  3. Scroll down to Signature.
  4. Type in whatever you like. My signature is, “Sent from my modern smartphone”. Be creative: “Sent by a tribe of small elves” or “Sent while multi-tasking”.

These instructions work for an iPhone, but steps for an Android phone are similar.


Dead Toshiba

speaker inside a Toshiba laptop computer

We bought our first Toshiba laptop in 1995. It was a good one. It lasted about 5 years.

This latest Toshiba lasted only about 9 months. Sadly, the warranty lasted 6 months.

In between that first Toshiba and our final Toshiba, we have bought several other brands of Windows laptops. I can’t even remember those brands – Acer or Asus was one.

But in the interim, we have bought a few Apple laptops too. And they have been much more reliable. The laptop I am typing this on was bought in early 2011. It’s still running very strong. (I have replaced the battery and hard drive and added memory.)

We bought Heather a MacBook Pro in 2009, and it’s acting like it never wants to die. Its first battery is even performing well.

No more Windows laptops. I finally learned my lesson.

The photo is a speaker inside that ill-fated Toshiba. My index finger is there to show its size. (I removed the hard drive for security purposes before giving it to Best Buy for recycling and thus saw its innards for the first time. It had stereo speakers.) It is sad to send them off to China’s Great Recycling Machine in the Sky.


Inbox 38,000

screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-5-38-12-pmWhy do I have so many emails in my personal inbox?

  • It’s easier to search for something in the pile than trying to process every email when it comes in.
  • Finding an email using search forces me to be creative in what search terms I use – I must use a unique search term to find the email I’m looking for.
  • I’m lazy. It would take too much time and mental energy to ruthlessly file away semi-important incoming emails into the correct folder or take the time to figure out if I should take action now or later on them.

Like most of us, I am a man of contrasts. I don’t believe in eating up too much space on server farms. So I do several things to keep my email account from hitting Google’s free-cloud limit. (Currently, I’m at 33%.) Here are those actions:

  • I go back to old emails and delete the ones with attachments. (Those are the space hogs.)
  • Occasionally, I go back to the beginning of time and delete a few pages of emails, without taking too much time to figure out if they have value.
  • I am ruthless about deleting incoming emails that I see no immediate need to keep. (This is a more recent habit – otherwise, the inbox number would be lower.)

What’s your personal inbox number?


Great app – Prisma

This little app has given me more fun than the last three photo apps combined – Prisma.

Here’s the original photo:

Jay, pre-Prisma app

And here are some of the results (tap the right side of the image to get to the next one):

[supsystic-slider id=1 position=”center”]

So if I convinced you to try this app, here’s where you can find it: Prisma. Currently, it’s just available for the iPhone, but if you have an Android, you can sign up to get news about the beta version.

Special thanks to my son Jay, the model.


airbnb plus hotels mashup

the indside of a fancy hotel room

You heard it hear first – my startup idea.

Business people who travel a lot often sleep in a large hotel room with two beds – and one is always empty.

What if they used a service like airbnb to get a roommate for their two-or-three night stays?

Potential problems and solutions:

  • You could get someone annoying. Solution: the app would allow you to cancel and pick a different room.
  • You’re an introvert and require your space after a draining day of conference activity. Solution: the app allows you to select a roommate who also values quiet and personal space.
  • Privacy. Solution: the app allows you to pick people of the gender you’re most comfortable with.
  • Getting the word out that this app exists could be a problem if hotel companies use all their negative marketing tricks to make the app look bad. Solution: have airbnb buy the app idea and handle the marketing. (Airbnb – are you listening? I’m open for offers.)
  • “I’d never use an app like that.” Solution: don’t.

Apple Watch review

Apple Watch on my wristNo, I don’t have one.

Yes, that’s my wrist that the Watch is sitting on.

So this is not a super-deep review, since I do not own one. But I will give you some first impressions, having spent about 90 minutes in an introductory workshop at my local Apple Store, playing with one and trying several on.

Here are my initial thoughts:

  • They’re nice. The feel and workmanship is as you might expect: top-notch. The vibrations that tell you things are not annoying. If you had your settings at a level where you were getting taps more than once an hour, you might start to go crazy. The interface is very well thought out.
  • Costs: The $349* price of entry (Sport model) definitely makes it a luxury item. And then your style choices are limited to the color of your watch (silver or black) and the color of your Sport band. If you want more choices, you have to spend $549 for the Watch (middle) model that lets you have a lot more  band choices.
  • Pretense: They can be less visible than the old Apple white headphones that told everyone you had an iPhone or an iPod. If you know what they look like, you can start to think about who has them and imagine their budgets. (I was amazed at the mom with her two teenagers who were part of my workshop. The kids already both had Watches. When I asked why he got one, the boy said, “I just wanted one.”)
  • Bands: The Milanese Loop was amazing for its simplicity and ease of use (add $100). The leather bands (add $100 or $200) seemed like step backwards from the synthetic sport band. The Link Bracelet (add $400) was incredible. You can size it without going to a jeweler. Having said all that, the only style I’d consider would be the Sport band (black case with black band, probably). The others are just a little too glitzy for me.
  • Sizes: My wrists are tiny. The only one that would work for me would be the 38mm. The 42mm does have a little more breathing room for viewing the screen, but it costs $50 more. (Casey Neistat described them as “girl size” and “boy size.” I disagree.)
  • Apps: Fitness seems to be the big one. If you aren’t interested in tracking your fitness, notifications for email and texts would be a big use, though habitually looking at your wrist might be just as annoying to others as habitually looking at your phone. (A whole new level of, “I’m not paying attention to you,” might start becoming widespread.) Phone calls seem to be so limited, due to issues like low audio volume, that I can’t imagine many people doing calls more than a few seconds through their Watch. Maps are limited but could be useful after you get used to the tiny interface. Music means pretty much a remote-control for your iTunes or Pandora. Photos: The maximum size for a photo is so small that I wouldn’t be spending much time with that one. And any library of more than about 100 photos probably means a hard time ever finding the photo you want to show someone. Oh yeah, and there’s the watch part. It’s super-easy to change its time-telling face between a variety of cool time-keepers… and then modify each one.
  • Tethering to your iPhone: A lot of people have hugely complained about this aspect. I don’t see it as any big deal, since my iPhone is always in my pocket, unless I’m at my desk or puttering around the house. And I like the idea of being away from messages, so I’d feel free to leave my iPhone at home. You can listen to a limited music library (with bluetooth headphones) while you run or bike ride without an iPhone nearby.
  • The Edition: Paying $10,000+ is just absurd. It’s for people that zeros do not matter. And for Denver residents, you’ll have to travel to Las Vegas to try one on.

Bottom line: Game-changer… 1) I think there are vast possibilities for how this will transform the way people relate to technology. 2) Today’s Groupon email had fitness wristbands – and a series of Breitling luxury watches – for far less than half price. The luxury watch and fitness band markets are changed forever. 3) Health professionals are just beginning to imagine new worlds that will open up for monitoring and then responding to health spheres.

None is on-order for me …. yet. I’m still trying to figure out how to justify the (not insignificant-to-me) expense.

* Apologies to my friends outside of the USA. You’ll need to go to your nearest Apple Store website to check pricing for your area.

For more info, visit Apple Watch on the web.