Things I recommend
2021 December 26
This post lists items, apps, etc. that I like and would recommend to other people.
Physical items #
($30): If you cook in bulk, get large pots and pans for whatever you like
cooking. I 2x or even 3x recipes all the time thanks to my roommate’s big pan.
- Sleep mask
($11): Sleep is important, so it’s worth spending money to improve your sleep
quality. Masks are useful for falling back asleep if you wake after sunrise
and for sleeping on planes. I linked the mask I currently use, but consider
other options since it’s falling apart after two years of use.
- Night light ($2): If you go
to the bathroom in the middle of the night frequently, put a night light in
the bathroom so that you don’t have to choose between fumbling in the dark and
turning on glaring lights.
- Electric toothbrush ($40 +
$20/year for toothbrush heads):
Electric brushing tends to be better for teeth and
gums than manual brushing. On a related note, the ADA recommends using soft-bristle brushes.
($22): The first time you use a bidet, you say, “do I really want to spray
water at my butt?”, and the second time, you say, “yes, I definitely want to
spray water at my butt.” It’s faster and more thorough than wiping, you can install
it yourself, and it’s affordable unless you want the fancy heated electric kind.
Browser extensions #
- Video Speed Controller
Lets you speed up videos on any website. No more sitting through videos at 1x
speed! It supports keyboard shortcuts for changing the speed too.
- Smile Always
(Chrome), AlwaysSmile (Firefox):
Automatically redirects you from amazon.com to smile.amazon.com, where
0.5% of your spending is directed towards a charity of your choice. If
you shop on Amazon, you might as well use this extension.
YouTube has lots of distracting content alongside lots of great content.
Use Unhook to block the homepage feed and the recommended video sections so
that you don’t get sucked into rabbit holes.
Automatically skips sponsor segments in YouTube videos.
(Chrome, Firefox): Free password manager.
- uBlock Origin
(Chrome, Firefox): Ad blocker.
- (not an extension) Keywords for search engines: On Chrome and Firefox, you can
set keywords for websites in your browser’s search engine settings. For
example, my Wikipedia keyword is “w”, so typing “w magna carta” in
the address bar gives the Wikipedia entry for the Magna Carta. On Firefox, you
may need this
to add all the search engines that you want.
Phone apps #
iOS): Gives access
to lots of audiobooks and ebooks using any library cards you have. I know the
Boston; Cambridge, MA; King County (Seattle and nearby); and San Francisco
library systems have Libby access.
- If you haven’t tried listening to audiobooks, listening to audiobooks at
1.5x speed while doing chores or light exercise will let you read 1–3 more
books per month. I think they work well for light non-fiction, whereas
denser non-fiction is hard to follow over audio. I haven’t been able to stay
engaged with fiction, but that may depend on the narration style.
So much podcast content exists that you should aggressively delete podcast
episodes you’re not interested in. Also, use a podcast app
like Overcast (iOS) or
iOS) that supports
adjusting the speed and skipping the intro and outro of podcasts.
- Rationally Speaking: Interview
podcast with varied topics where the host does a great job of making the
interviewees be precise and respond to counterarguments.
- The Weeds: Discussions about U.S. policy. I
don’t actively listen to this podcast, but I look up episodes (among other
resources) if there’s a policy issue I want to learn more about.
- Planet Money: Connects
concepts from economics to everyday life. I skip most episodes, but the “We Buy
a Superhero” series is great—I didn’t expect laugh out loud at a Planet Money
Practicing Mandarin #
Skip this section if, like most people, you’re not learning Mandarin.
- (Browser extension) Zhongwen (Chrome,
over any Chinese word to get its pronunciation and definition.
- (Phone app) Pleco (Android,
Offline Chinese-English dictionary. Looking up characters by
writing them with your finger in Pleco works well too.
- (Computer app) Anki: Dreaded by language learners
and medical students alike. Anki is a flashcard app that automatically spaces
out card reappearances to
make memorizing efficient. It’s effective for drilling vocabulary.
- Try a few pre-made decks to get a feel of things and then start making your
own cards for vocabulary you encounter elsewhere.
- Taiwanese YouTube channels (only relevant if you want to listen to Taiwanese
- 阿滴英文: This guy makes
a lot of general entertainment videos along with his educational content for
learning English. The Mandarin spoken is in a conversational style, so it’s
relatively easy to understand. Importantly, most of the videos have YouTube
subtitles in Chinese, so you can open the transcript and use the Zhongwen
browser extension to look up any unfamiliar words.
- 志祺七七 X 圖文不符: Explainer videos
about Taiwanese issues and international news. These videos are more
difficult, but fortunately they have YouTube subtitles too.
- Brian Tseng: I haven’t
watched this channel’s recent videos, but this guy hosted a political comedy
show similar in style to those seen in the U.S. It’s tough
to understand since it references Taiwanese public figures and politics, but
it’s pretty entertaining. (He is not related to me. Tseng is a common