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The AmazonBasics Automatic Travel Umbrella, with Wind Vent: The Perfect City Umbrella?

The AmazonBasics Automatic Travel Umbrella, with Wind Vent, Black is a fantastic umbrella, not just at the affordable $15.99 price point.

For some background, I live in New York City, where cheap umbrellas are plentiful. For years, I would buy $7 umbrellas from the local bodega and just replace them if they broke or I lost them. I must have gone through 4-5 umbrellas a year and recently after the last one broke I decided to look on Amazon for an alternative.

If I was going to spend more money on an umbrella, I put together some simple criteria:

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Mount Baker

A Buyer’s Guide for a Novice Climber Part 1

In a few days I’ll be climbing Mount Baker in Seattle Washington. Because this will be my first major climb, I really don’t know what to expect and having scenes from the movie Everest replay in my mind is not very reassuring. With an elevation of 10,781’ Mount Baker is the third highest mountain in Washington State. Let’s hope all those recent weekend hikes in Northern New Jersey and New York will be enough preparation.

Besides preparing physically, there has been a lot of climbing gear that I’ve had to purchase. Thankfully the guides on this climb have provided a comprehensive list of the items I will need. I’ll briefly go over some items and the brand/model I ended up purchasing or renting. Hope this provides some insight when you need to gear up for your first climb. Read More

BuysWithFriends Philosophy 1: Thoughts on making the “right” buys

Vacations = Free Time = Thinking

I’ve been on vacation for the last few weeks in Glacier National Park (pictures forthcoming!). My wife and I got to use our national parks pass right before it expired. We got a ton of value out of the pass. One unavoidable thing about vacations that I came to recognize as necessary evils: gift shops. All those little tchotckes and Glacier branded items probably really help the park’s bottom line. But, I almost never buy anything from them. Quickly browsing or skipping them altogether, gift shops got me wondering about my own personal buying philosophy.

A Buying Philosophy

The act of purchasing something is often personal, emotion-driven, and made with almost zero reflective thought. Many of us largely rely on intuition when making a buy, whether that’s out of habit, cognitive miserliness (our tendency to want to conserve mental resources), or because we don’t often have the time to do in-depth analysis. Usually, we reserve detailed comparisons and note-taking to large purchases of non-perishable items, such as automobiles, televisions, and computers. While these more costly purchases can lead to big one time hits to the wallet or purse, our daily purchases are usually the ones that send us over budget or keep us on track with our savings. So while we can spend too much time over-thinking a purchase, we can also spend too little time and under-think, leading to inefficient spending and regret. What we want to do is strike a balance between analysis-paralysis and willy-nilly spending– since a dollar saved today is many more dollars we can spend down the road (a concept called temporal discounting). To help myself stay on track with making the “right” purchases, I developed a method I call VCR– value, cost, and replacement, whenever the item I want (or think I want) is above a pre-set dollar threshold. While I didn’t realize that I did this almost unconsciously with every purchase, upon deeper reflection and introspection, I was able to figure out that I did have a personal buying heuristic that I employ on a regular basis. Read on to find out more about how I think about buying.

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Seasonal Buys: Summer Purchases and Why I Bought Them

If there was a popularity contest between Summer and Winter in Northeast United States, my money would be on Summer. Even though summers here can be intolerably muggy and incur high electricity bills from the air conditioner, there’s something about its more relaxed pace and its breezy, comfortable nights that beats the bitter cold and long, dark nights of winter. And then there’s outdoor BBQs, trips to the beach, and walking around in sandals.

I’ve been curious about how seasons influence buying patterns. To celebrate these summer months, I decided to reflect on my summer purchases and to think about why I made them, maybe even delve into the “job” I hired them to do.

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A Beginner Runner’s Review of the Garmin Forerunner 235

A few months ago, I decided to run the 2017 Brooklyn Half Marathon with some friends. As a novice runner, there was a lot of work that I needed to do to be able to complete the race. To help supplement my training and provide some data along the way, I started looking for a watch that would be able to track my running speed, distance, and heart rate.

There were a few pieces of criteria that I had when looking for a watch:

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Finding Time: Functional Watches that Represent My Personality

What job does your watch do for you?

I have four watches and each one says something slightly different about me. At one time I had five. About a year and a half ago I wrote a blog post about the Apple Watch. I actually sold my Apple Watch to a family member a few months ago. I stand by all the benefits I laid out in my original post but I don’t think I really understood the downsides of a smartwatch at the time. The biggest issue is that the watch was on me at all times because I wanted to use it as a fitness tracker. This meant that I was tempted to use it for at least a few notifications. But even with the sound turned off (eventually vibration too) and notifications turned to a minimum few, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the watch was wearing me instead of the other way around. Sometimes this meant anticipating the hourly “stand up!” exhortations– other times it meant meaninglessly scrolling through watch apps or looking at the stock ticker on the face.

For my attention’s sake I got rid of it. Many of us are faced with this dilemma daily, especially those who do deep work (Cal Newport’s term for effortful, creative work that requires concentration).

But I didn’t get rid of my other watches. In fact, I found myself wearing them more often, after going for a few months with just my phone for telling time. That didn’t last long. The temptation when you pull out your phone to look at the time is to swipe and look at the other things going on in there. Not the kind of behavior I wanted to turn into a habit.

The watches that I do have are functional and I’ve had two of them for a long time. Many people associate the word functional with “utilitarian” or even “ugly.” That’s definitely not the case with these watches. Read on to find out more about the functional watches I have and my watch wearing philosophy.

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Our Favorite Denzel Washington Movies

Denzel: Best Actor Ever.

Denzel Washington is one of our favorite actors, if not our absolute favorite. When you view his career one thing stands out: the consistent, forceful performances. Denzel rarely, if ever, “phones it in.” Its as if he’s incapable of being lackluster. Add to that his flexibility: he’s played flawed heroes (Man on Fire, Manchurian Candidate, Flight), more “pure” heroes (Remember the Titans, Book of Eli, Glory, Equalizer), villains (Training Day, American Gangster), historical figures (Malcolm X, The Hurricane) and very much “human” roles (John Q, Taking of Pelham 123, He Got Game). In fact, he’s been nominated for an Academy Award eight times, including two wins for his performance in Glory (best supporting actor) and in Training Day (best actor).  If you’re bored on a Friday night, you could do much worse than find a good Denzel flick to stream. Peter and I have been talking about doing a Denzel Marathon for a while, which would include back-to-back-to-back-to-back viewings of our favorite Denzel flicks. Here’s all of our favorite Denzel movies, in order based on release (it is honestly too hard to decide which one is better than another, so we decided to go with chronological order).

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Power nutritious breakfast

How to Eat a Super Nutritious Breakfast & What to Buy

Over the years, I’ve experimented with various types of breakfasts, hoping to find the sweet spot between something that tastes good, is easy to make, and gives me the nutrients and energy to start my day off right. In this post, I’ll be sharing my “go-to” breakfast that I eat at least 4-5 times a week.

The Ultimate English Muffin

The centerpiece of my breakfast is the English muffin. My preferred brand of choice is Vermont Bread Company’s Organic & Natural English Muffins. I’ve tried all the different varieties (Whole Wheat, Golden White, Honey Wheat, Multigrain, etc.) and my hands-down favorite is Spelt. Spelt is species of wheat that’s been around for a long time and known for being an excellent source of protein and dietary fiber. Its taste is not as distinctive as whole wheat, so it becomes a nice canvas for whatever I put on top.

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Feet Mobility Exercise Tools to Prevent Injuries & Run Better

I ran my first half marathon last year. Before last year, I had never run a race longer than 3.1 miles. I put in a good four months of training and even hired a running coach to guide me.  I was very proud and loved the experience. But one thing I didn’t like was the pain I endured in my feet and ankles towards the end of my training. I had a nagging pain right under my right big toe that wouldn’t go away and after some 5+ mile runs, my ankles would always be very sore. During my training last year, the pain became unbearable at certain points that I had to take a week off before I could start again.

This time around, I resolved to approach training in a smarter way. I did some research on injury prevention and came across a fantastic book by Crossfit San Francisco founder and physiotherapist Kelly Starrett. It’s called Ready to Run and I can’t emphasize how impactful this book has been for me. In many ways, it’s not only helped me to become a better runner, it’s helped me to rethink the way I move and live my life everyday.

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