Recommendation

2019 Holiday Gift Guide

For the past few years, I’ve put together a little gift guide in December full of things that I think make great gifts and are a lot of fun to give or receive for the holidays. Everything on the list is something I’ve used and enjoyed and recommend. I have recommendations posts for movies, tv shows, books, software, podcasts, headphones, and miscellaneous stuff around the house, so the things on this list will be more focused on stuff not included in those posts and geared toward things I’ve come across in the past year or so and think would make good gifts.

I used my Amazon affiliate link when the product showed up there, which gives our website a slight percentage back if you make a purchase and therefore helps fund our continued existence.

If you’d like to get me a gift, becoming a supporting member or gifting another user a supporting membership for a year would mean the world to me. And, if you’re looking for something in just about any price range with a Chorus.fm or AbsolutePunk.net logo on it, check our merch shop.

AirPods Pro First Impressions

I bought the first generation of AirPods back in 2017 and fell in love almost immediately. The ease of use and freeing sensation of having no cord attached to my pocket led them to become the most used, and most adored, pair of headphones I’d ever owned. From running errands, to cooking dinner, these became a staple of my everyday carry. With the release of the AirPods Pro, I decided to pick up two pairs for Hannah and I as an early wedding gift. I didn’t think I’d be saying this, but they’ve been improved in virtually every single way. They’re now, without a doubt, my favorite pair of headphones I’ve ever owned. It starts with the new smaller footprint. I never thought the original AirPods felt “big,” but the new ones feel like nothing in my ears. You combine this with the more snug fit from having the rubberized tips, and they feel perfectly secure walking around town or working out in the gym. The sound is improved, partially by having a better seal in the ear, and they offer a nice, fairly neutral, experience for music. The bass is pretty close to what I prefer, not too heavy. I usually like a little more high-end in the treble, but it’s surprisingly steady. If I want more clarity, I have more expensive cans I can turn to, but for most moments when I want to listen to music, or more often, a podcast, these are downright perfect and sound better than expected. (I tested the sound mostly using My Chemical Romance’s Danger Days.) The noise canceling is a nice feature, but one I don’t often find myself needing. I’m sure there will be times in noisy coffee shops or other places where I’ll find it useful, but most of the time I find it overkill, and actually a little unsettling. I’ll probably be using them most often while in Transparency Mode. This mode lets in, and slightly amplifies, just enough sound so that it feels like you have nothing in your ears, while still being able to hear whatever you’re playing. It’s perfect for when you’re in the city and want to make sure you can hear your surroundings. Or when your significant other starts talking to you while you’re listening to something around the house. It’s such a game changing feature that I don’t know if I could go back to any buds that don’t have it as an option.

I’ve had no issues with the new interaction model of squeezing the AirPod stem instead of using taps. The small “click” sound is comforting and it only took a few hours to retrain my muscle memory. The only thing I’m still not used to is the actual way you put the AirPods back in their case. It’s reversed from what I’m used to and I still mess it up. I am also a fan of the new features that came with the second generation AirPods but I hadn’t used yet, such as the always on “Hey Siri” access. It’s is surprisingly handy. Also, the new feature where you can have Siri read messages to you when they come in and immediately respond is something I didn’t know I’d want until I used it for the first time.

I have more expensive and better sounding headphones around the house. And, there are times when that’s what I am looking for and want; however, the ease of use and convenience of having a pair of wireless buds in a tiny case in my pocket is more than worth that trade-off. I already knew I loved AirPods, but adding noise cancelation, transparency mode, and a new smaller footprint has more than exceeded my expectations. This is the future I’ve been dreaming of ever since the opening scene of the underrated romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe.

Battery life has been almost exactly as advertised. The slightly larger carrying case feels negligible in my hand or pocket. The latency of connecting to and controlling the AirPods seems dramatically improved from the first generation. The cost is, well, an issue. They’re expensive and due to their size and physics will not hold the same battery charge forever. For most people, I’d recommend these if you really want noise cancelation, really prefer a rubber tip fit in your ear, and are attracted to the smaller design.

2018 Holiday Gift Guide

In what has become a December tradition, I’ve put together a little holiday gift guide of things that I think are worth your time. I have also updated my recommendations posts for movies, tv shows, books, software, podcasts, headphones, and miscellaneous stuff around the house, so the things on this list will be more focused on stuff not included in those posts and more geared toward things I’ve come across in the past year or so and think would make excellent gifts. As always, I only recommend things I’ve personally used and loved.

I used my Amazon affiliate link when the product showed up there, which gives our website a slight percentage back if you make a purchase and therefore helps fund our continued existence.

If you’d like to get me a gift, becoming a supporting member or gifting another user a supporting membership for a year would mean the world to me.

2017 Holiday Gift Guide

I can’t believe it’s already December, but here we are. Like last year, I wanted to steal an idea I’ve seen on other websites and put together a few gift ideas that I think are worthy of your time. I have also updated my recommendations posts for movies, tv shows, books, software, podcasts, headphones, and miscellaneous stuff around the house, so the things on this list will be more focused on stuff not included in those posts and more geared toward things I’ve come across in the past year or so and think would make good gifts. As always, I only recommend things I’ve personally used and loved.

I used my Amazon affiliate link when the product showed up there, which gives our website a slight percentage back if you make a purchase, and therefore helps fund our continued existence. I hope you’ll find something cool, and feel free to drop your own recommendations in the comments.

If you’d like to get me a gift, becoming a supporting member or gifting another user a supporting membership for a year would mean the world to me.

Overcast 3.0

My favorite podcast client, Overcast, has had a big update for 3.0:

Overcast 3 is now available, and it’s a huge update, mostly in the design and flow of the interface. I’ve been working on it since last summer, informed by over two years of testing, usage, and customer feedback.

MacStories has as great review (and I don’t just say that because there’s a nice screenshot of Encore in it):

The most notable visual and practical change in Overcast 3.0, however, is the new episode action tray. Inspired by Tweetbot’s tap-to-reveal action drawer in the timeline, Overcast’s action bar groups and simplifies actions that were previously hidden behind swipe gestures or other menus nested in an episode’s page. Upon tapping an episode in a list, Overcast will display buttons to share, star, play, add to queue, and delete the selected item.

I spent all of yesterday listening to my favorite shows in the new version of the app, and it’s still by far my favorite way to listen to podcasts.

2016 Holiday Gift Guide

With the holidays rapidly approaching, I wanted to steal an idea I’ve seen on other websites and put together a few gift ideas that I think are pretty great to give and receive. Since I already have recommendation posts for albums, movies, tv shows, books, software, podcasts, blogs, audio-equipment, and random miscellaneous tech and around the house items, this list is focused mostly on things not included in those posts and more geared toward things I’ve come across in the past year or so that I think are worth checking out and that I think would make good gifts. As always, I only recommend things I’ve personally used and loved.

I used my Amazon affiliate link when the product showed up there, which gives our website a slight percentage back if you make a purchase, and therefore helps fund our continued existence. I hope you’ll find something cool, and feel free to drop your own recommendations in the comments.

Cool App: PodcastMenu

I’ve been singing the praises of Overcast for playing podcasts on iOS devices for quite a while now. It’s easily one of the most used apps on my phone and with the latest update allowing me to upload my own files to it, it’s becoming my audiobook player of choice as well. The app has always had a web interface that works well enough when I’m on my desktop computer, but I came across this awesome little menu bar app that lets you control the interface using the media keys on your keyboard.

If you’re like me, sometimes you’ll be listening to a podcast and need to quickly pause to think while writing a snarky blog post or check an email, and being able to use the built-in keys on the keyboard to do this really is a game changer. If you use Overcast and are looking for a way to bring your podcasts, and where you’ve left off in them, to your Mac — give this a look.

Helpful Safari Extension: Recent Tab List

I recently decided to ditch Chrome and move full-time into Safari as my main web browser. My main reasoning was that all the bugs I kept running into with Chrome were the kind I couldn’t handle anymore (spellcheck would flat out stop working unless I relaunched, dictionary look-up stopped working right, shortcut keys would fail for no reason). It’s only been a couple of days with Safari as my main workhorse so far, but I’m liking it. I’ve finally got it set up how I want it, and it’s treating me well on our first date.

One thing I missed immediately from Chrome was if I closed a tab by accident, or too quickly, I could right click on an open tab and select “reopen last closed tab.” Sometimes I get moving too fast and still need a link or to copy something from a website after I close the tab, so I used this feature pretty frequently. With Safari, if you don’t do anything else you can quickly hit ⌘+Z to reopen a closed tab, but too often I would start typing again before realizing I needed that last website still. Enter the Recent Tab List extension. This is a great little extension that you can keep in your toolbar to show you all the recent tabs you’ve closed so you can quickly reopen one you may have closed.

Helpful App: Thunderspace 5K

The last few weeks have been just a tad stressful. Needless to say my sleep schedule has taken a massive punch in the balls. Over the past few days I’ve been using this app, Thunderspace 5K, at night as almost a white noise machine. It’s been a revelation. It might be growing up in Oregon, and having spent many a night falling asleep to the sound of rain on the wood deck outside the window of my youth, but this app has replaced podcasts when I finally find my way to bed.

Things to Do in Portland, OR

Portland

Things to Do in Portland, OR

I’ve lived in Portland, Oregon for most of my life. There was a brief foray during the college years to do the pop-punk thing and get out of the town I grew up in, but I always end up finding my way back. There’s just something about the city, the people, the way of life, that fits so well with my personality. It’s home. With the popularity of Portlandia I’ve gotten more questions about the city than any other time in my life. Everyone wants to know how accurate the show is (some of it is pretty damn dead on), and quite a few others ask about things to do if they ever visit. I’ve got a few recommendations for if you ever visit the city, but take it as a very incomplete list, there’s always new things showing up and there are plenty of things I don’t cover here. This is also mostly confined to the Portland area and doesn’t expand out to the fantastic hiking, wildlife, and nature that so much of Oregon is known for — I always highly recommend finding a good hiking trail when you visit, it’s beautiful.

Miscellaneous Recommendations

Most of my recommendations can be found in nice little categories: Albums, movies, tv shows, books, software, podcasts, blogs, and audio-equipment. Or, when I post one-off recommendations they’re all under the “recommendation” tag. However, this is kind of a “catch-all” post for a bunch of different things that I think are great but don’t really have a place to put them. It doesn’t make sense for them to all be separate posts, so instead it’s a giant long list of links! I’ve added some commentary in a few places as well. I have personally used and recommend all of the products on this list and I’ll try and keep it updated semi-regularly for when you’re looking to buy new toys or find a cool gift for that special someone.

Favorite Headphones & Turntable

When it comes to audio equipment my recommendation has always been to do your research, know what you’re looking for, know your budget, and then try and go test things out before making a purchase. People like different sounds in their music and I don’t think there’s a tried and true “best” out there for anyone. Some people prefer a more natural and accurate sound in their headphones, others actively are searching for a heavier bass sound. Only you will know which you prefer and how a specific set of headphones will sit on your ears and feel after a few hours of listening.

This list is what I consider my favorite sets of headphones (and a record player recommendation). This is based off of my personal judgment of sound accuracy, comfort, and relative price. If you’re looking for an in-depth review of a bunch of headphones in all price ranges, I recommend reading Steve Guttenberg and Marco Arment’s reviews. There are also recommendations at The Wirecutter and various internet forums.

Favorite Software

One of the more frequent questions I’m asked is what software do I use for insert a task here. This post hopes to keep a running list of my favorite apps, programs, and tools that I use on a regular basis. I’ve tried to break up the list into helpful sections and linked out to the app store when appropriate. Everything listed here I personally use and recommend. I’ll try and update this post on a semi-regular basis.

Favorite Books

Trying to keep track of my “favorite” books is next to impossible. However, this list is a pretty good record of books that I would put into that category. It’s definitely nowhere near complete, but I will try and keep it updated with new entries that I consider my “favorites” on a semi-regular basis.

You can also follow me on Goodreads for a running list and ratings of the books I read.

Favorite TV Shows

There’s something about a cold beer and watching a good TV show that is the perfect end to a day. This is a running list of some of my favorite TV shows. It’s by no means a complete list, but I’ll try and keep it updated semi-regularly with stuff that I would definitely recommend checking out.

Favorite Movies

This will attempt to be a running list of movies that I consider my “favorites.” It’s by no means complete, but it’s a good starting point for a bunch of movies that I really like and enjoy. If you’re looking for something to watch and haven’t checked these out yet, well, I think it’s a damn good group of movies. I’ll do my best to keep this list updated on a semi-regular basis to track the movies I consider my favorites.

You can also follow me on Letterboxd for a running list and ratings of the movies I watch.

Favorite Albums

Looking for some great music and not sure where to start? Here’s a running list of some of my favorite albums of all time. This list spans almost all genres and eras and is by no means “complete” — but if you haven’t heard these albums, I recommend getting on that. I’ll be updating this list over time to try and keep a record of what I consider my “favorite” albums. Oh, and these aren’t in any real order.

Cool App: Next (Expense Tracking)

Federico Viticci, reviewing Next for MacStories:

Next is on my Home screen on my iPhone and iPad. I use the app every day, and I log every expense (whether it’s cash or an expense from my bank account) as soon as I can. My perspective of my spending habits has considerably changed since I started using Next, and I’m making more informed decisions thanks to the overview that this app offers and its elegant design combined with astounding ease of use.

I’ve been using Mint for quite a while to get a good overview of my finances (#adulting), but recently I realized I had two main categories that I wanted to better break down for budgetary purposes: food and shopping. I wanted to have a weekly food budget, and a monthly shopping budget, and make sure I could keep track of just those two things with relative ease. Enter: Next.

I’ve been using this system for the last month and am really impressed by how much it does help me make purchasing decisions. Being able to quickly glance at my week of food spending keeps me from buying that extra 6-pack of beer after my weekly store run. I like the simplicity of this system because instead of having to remember a variety of categories within my budget, I can keep two numbers in my head: food per week, shopping per month.

While I still like (not love) Mint for being able to give me a bigger overview of everything in my financial world, Next is the first budget app I’ve actually felt some delight in using each day.