Posted on 12/27/2020
Tags: Leisure, Writing
Circa 2015, I met my friend for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant in the Mission. We caught up on all things work and life. One small update he shared is that he'd been running an email list for years where he sends out product recommendations with Amazon affiliate links. He made a modest sum on referral fees paid by Amazon when someone made a purchase.

Back then, I wasn't aware of "Instagram Influencers" and it's possible that it wasn't a thing yet. Though I have no aspirations of influencing, every once in a while I'm surprised by a product we're using and I think that it'd be neat to share this with the world. And while I'm sharing, why not tack a referral reference onto the link and see if it goes somewhere?

And then, about a month ago, I felt an itch to do some writing.

Quick aside:
It's weird: all through school I gravitated toward math, science, and engineering. I dreaded writing assignments and classes heavy on reading. Now that I'm an adult who's been out of school for over a decade, I spend much of my free time reading (not necessarily books; mostly articles, blog posts, and discussion about all kinds of topics). And after working as an engineer, discovering that written communication is a vital skill, and then getting years and years of practice, I'm finding joy in expressing my thoughts in writing. This is probably worth a post of its own.

Anyway, I felt an itch to do some writing. I had done some light creative writing as part of my recent text adventure games (Dungeon Memalign and Pac-Man Dungeon) and I wanted more.

Having never engaged well with writing in school, I wasn't sure where to start. Instead of writing a story, a journal entry, or a new interactive fiction game, I latched onto the product recommendations idea.

What resulted are some product reviews I had fun making. Not everyone (anyone?) will enjoy them. Though my wife was supportive, read them, and said they were good, she also pointed out, "Why would anyone want these? People looking for product reviews want specific information presented concisely."

By the way, I did not sign up for the Amazon affiliate program and these are just vanilla product links. I don't get any monetary benefit if you follow these links. I'm simply getting the satisfaction of sharing some things that I liked using with words that I liked writing.

Here they are:

Ants erupt from a .5mm space between the wood floor and the white painted trim. They skitter, weaving single-file, looking for any source of nourishment. They discover a bowl of delicious dog food and, by the tang on their mandibles, it's the premium stuff: imported hypoallergenic kibble made with venison and sweet potatoes.

They obey the queen and the queen commanded, "FEED ME!" She will be most pleased.

This is the scene I stepped onto one Monday morning. I literally stepped onto it two or three times before I even noticed. The uncrushed ants were undeterred despite 10-20 of their flattened peers littering the scent trail.

And then I did notice. "ANTS!" I exclaimed to my wife as I scrambled to wipe them up with a damp papertowel. And yet they kept coming and coming. I dumped the dog's food in the trash and rinsed ants off the bowl. I traced them back to the source, that tiny sliver of a space where they were coming out of the wall. They can come out of the wall?? Apparently this is how ants work.

Last time we had ants I was less surprised because they were simply coming in under a door. Fortunately, we still had some supplies left over from the last ant-pocalypse we orchestrated.

Specifically, we had these liquid ant traps:

TERRO T300 Liquid Ant Bait Ant Killer, 6 Bait Stations

These traps worked great: they attract the ants, the ants slurp up the sweet borax-poisoned bait, and the majority of the ants make it back to the nest to share the dose. Within a week, the swarm of ants had dwindled and the nest had succumbed to the borax.

In the meantime, we ordered outside traps:

TERRO T1812 Outdoor Liquid Ant Killer Bait Stakes - 8 Traps

I placed these around the house to re-establish the perimeter of our ant-free zone. Hopefully we'll be good for another 6 months.

Close your eyes and imagine with me:
- It's winter
- You and your spouse disagree about an appropriate indoor temperature
- You want to keep the house habitable by humans
- They just want to prevent the water pipes from freezing and bursting
- You compromise on a balmy 67ºF

That's just too chilly.

The good news is that you can create a tiny little sauna for yourself in any enclosed space with this tiny little space heater made by Toyuugo:

Portable Electric Heater, Space Heater 500W Ceramic Personal Desk Heater, 2s Quick Heat-up, Tip-Over, Overheating Protection & Auto Shut Off for Office Home

It's small but it packs a big punch!

I like to turn this on in my bathroom a minute before I go in and leave it running while I'm in there. I've used it off-and-on for about a year now. It's great :)

Have you ever wanted to hang a coat or towel?

And you don't want to install a rack of some kind (because you don't have space, a good spot, you don't want to hammer something into the wall, etc)?

And you have a glossy surface (possibly glass) nearby which would be a good spot for a hook?

If you, like me, find yourself in this strangely specific circumstance, I know exactly what will help.

HOME SO Suction Cup Hooks for Shower, Bathroom, Kitchen, Glass Door, Mirror, Tile – Loofah, Towel, Coat, Bath Robe Hook Holder for Hanging up to 15 lbs – Waterproof & Rustproof, Chrome

Note that, while these have a shiny chrome finish, they are plastic.

Normally, I don't trust suction cups. I've been burned too many times! You stick them on only to have them detach days later. Often at inconvenient times. I still haven't found a trustworthy car-phone-mount that uses suction cups.

This product is great. You stick it on the glass and you twist the knob to increase suction. A few days after sticking it on, you twist again in case it unwound at all. I like to give it an extra little twist every few months now. We have four, used every day, and they have never detached after months of use.

So those are my reviews. I have more products I like but I'm shifting my hobby time to something else for now!

Here's what I would write about next:

For the home:
- Electric blankets: Berkshire Blanket Heated Throw
- Heated mattress pad by SoftHeat/Serta
- Air purifiers by Levoit. This big one is great for a large open space.
- Ring Alarm and cameras

Working from home:
- Lululemon Discipline Pant
  - Off-screen comfort
- Herman Miller Aeron chair

- Lactaid - I should've started using this far earlier than I did!
- Sonicare toothbrush
  - Switching from a classic electric toothbrush to this Sonicare felt like finally arriving in the future. I feel this cleans a lot better than older technology.

- Zignature Limited Ingredient Venison dog food
  - Around 1 year old, our Shiba Inu became allergic to normal dog food. He started rubbing his face raw and biting at his fur to scratch his itchy skin. We learned that many dogs become allergic to common proteins. The solution is to switch to a limited-ingredient food and be careful they don't eat random things. It was a relief when we found this food that is safe and he likes to eat.
- Dog Comfy Cone
  - Important to use any time he's having an allergic reaction and trying to scratch/bite himself

- My favorite car - switching to a nicer car as an adult transformed driving from a routine bore to something fun!
- Stickerless mini speed Rubik's Cube knockoff keychains - there are several brands, make sure to pick one with good reviews