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Neat Stuff Weekly - March 30th, 2020

Neat Stuff Weekly
Neat Stuff Weekly - March 30th, 2020
By Graham Barber • Issue #6 • View online
Hey folks, I hope you’ve been holding up well in the last couple weeks. I didn’t manage to get last week’s newsletter out because—as you surely know—things are bit chaotic right now. But, I’m back this week, with a couple of announcements.
Good news first: I’m going to be mixing the format of the newsletter up just a little bit. The Own/Pay For/Want model has worked pretty well so far, but in holding myself to that, I left out the possibility of showcasing free stuff! So, going forward, whenever I’m stumped on what to write about, I’ll sprinkle in some free stuff here and there.
Now, the slightly sadder news: I’ll be discontinuing the podcast for the time being, unless there’s an outstanding desire for me to keep doing it. I suspect, however, that there won’t be. Cheers to the one person who listened to the last two episodes. If you object to this decision, though, please send me a message and I’ll talk with you about it.
Anyways, that wraps up housekeeping for this week. On to the stuff!

Zojirushi SM-TA Series
The full lineup of Zojirushi SM-TA tumblers
The full lineup of Zojirushi SM-TA tumblers
I picked up one of these tumblers when I was trying to figure out my back-to-school look in 2019. I know I’m in Oregon, the home of Hydroflask, but I was just so tired of having what everyone else has (a chronic problem, as you might have noticed by now). I wanted some way to carry around either hot coffee or cold water, and I knew I could do better than a plain old Hydroflask. That’s how I came about the Zojirushi SM-TA series.
I’m really glad I did: These things have absolutely no right to be as effective as they are. If you pour a fresh coffee at 8 in the morning, it will be too hot to drink until 2 in the afternoon. Zojirushi’s insulation technology is so mind-blowingly effective that I almost believe my life would be better off if their product was worse at doing what it advertises. What’s even more surprising is that these tumblers are so incredibly light and compact that they feel cheap to an extent, and so their performance is truly unbelievable.
While the flip-top lid is pretty nice, I recommend that you pick up one of the aftermarket screw-top lids instead. Zojirushi touts their advanced extrusion technique that gives the mouth opening a curved lip, which I find far more comfortable to drink from than the plastic mouthpiece. It’s convenient that the flip-top lid breaks into several pieces in order to make clean easier, but I’ve found that the lid plastic holds odors with a reckless abandon. On top of that, the mouthpiece is just too small to create a comfortable flow. Skip the frustration and get a single-piece, screw-top lid instead. Drinking from the open top also means that your drink cools faster, so don’t have to spend 8 hours burning your tongue.
You might say to yourself “I don’t want to have a mug that prevents me from drinking my coffee for 8 hours after I pour it!” And you’re wrong. You absolutely do—if not for maintaining hot drinks, then at least for retaining cold ones. Given its size, effectiveness, and price (~$30), the Zojirushi SM-TA series should be your goto to-go tumbler. Zojirushi SM-TA60WA Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Mug, 20-Ounce, White: Kitchen & Dining
No picture for this product, since it’s an app and I couldn’t track down a single decently-sized screenshot for it.
Parcel is the application that I use for tracking all of my packages. It’s an iOS/macOS exclusive, so if that’s a turnoff for you, you can go ahead and just skip to the next product. Or, maybe you could check out Arrive from Shopify instead. Or perhaps you could keep reading—it’s your call.
At any rate, Parcel is a very clean and simple tracking app that consolidates 300 something tracking services into a single feed. It performs background checking and delivers push notifications so you can get notified when your package’s status changes, and it supports multi-device syncing. I find it handy because I can track shipments from my phone when I’m checking my email, and then I can get updates on my laptop when I’m working.
Compared to Arrive, I find Parcel to be highly reliable in terms of guessing fulfillment providers and providing push notification updates. Parcel does not support parsing your emails for tracking numbers, but in my experience, parcel trackers that do provide such a feature rarely pull in the correct information. I frequently have to go in and fix the deliveries that they detect; I’d much rather add my packages manually and have it work correctly the first time.
Parcel also has a much more streamlined workflow for adding packages: In most cases, you can just highlight a tracking number and share the text directly to Parcel. That’s on iOS, at least—on macOS, Parcel gives the Today view in Notification Center a reason for existence. Just copy a tracking number, open Notification Center, press a button, and Parcel will pull the number off the clipboard and guess the relevant fulfillment service. From there, you can tweak it as necessary and add a friendly label.
If you’re similarly embedded in the Apple ecosystem, I recommend giving Parcel a try. Some of the features are premium only, but the cost of a subscription is only $2.99 a year. If you receive packages on even a semi-frequent basis, I assure you that the expense is absolutely worth it.
‎Parcel - Delivery Tracking on the App Store
‎Parcel - Delivery Tracking on the Mac App Store
Ember Mug 2
The 14oz Ember Mug 2 in Black
The 14oz Ember Mug 2 in Black
I guess I just have drinkware on the mind this week.
With the sudden global transition to work-from-home, my desire for temperature-sustaining portable drinkware, in retrospect, appears misplaced. I no longer have a need for a huge, well-insulated tumbler. At home, we use mugs and glasses. A mug doesn’t need to be big because it can just be refilled. It doesn’t need to have a well-designed lid because it’s not being transported all over town in cars, buses, and trains.
I got a lovely pair of hand-painted Chinese porcelain mugs a couple months ago, and that’s what I’ve been using up until this point. However, the essential problem persists even in my own home: They don’t hold their temperature for very long! In the amount of time it takes for me to finish a single cup of lapsang souchong, my tea goes from hot to warm to icy. There is no joy in a cold cup of tea—only deep, profound sorrow.
Ember has had a solution to this problem for several years now: A battery-powered mug with a pogo-pin charging coaster that keeps your drink at a constant hot temperature. It’s such a simple idea that it makes the prospect of buying such a device sound stupid. “Just make more tea!” you cry. What—and use more leaves? And waste what I have so lovingly created already? No. I will not act so lavishly.
Dramatics aside, now that I spend 80% of my day at my desk, catch me with one of these Ember Mug 2s keeping my tea comfortably warm. If you’re still skeptical, perhaps watching the video below will change your mind.
Product Review: The Ember Smart Mug
Product Review: The Ember Smart Mug
Ember Mug² - Heated Coffee Mug - Ember®
Wrapping Up
I think that’s the greatest number of words that I’ve written for one of these newsletters so far. It’s amazing how much more invested you can get with your writing when you set aside an entire day for it. I hope you enjoyed what I had to say, and I hope you learned about some fun new stuff this week.
One quick question before I go for the week: Is there any desire for longer, more in-depth product reviews? I have a lot of gear that I could more detailed reviews of, but I don’t want to take up too much space with them in this newsletter. If you have an opinion on that, please reach out to me with Revue’s feedback function at the end of this email.
Alright everyone. Stay safe, and I hope you have a great week—I’ll talk to you folks again soon.
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Graham Barber

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Graham Barber, 307 SW 7th St Apt 102, Corvallis, OR 97333