Life is full of adventures and my most recent adventure was selling a local rental property and – via a 1031 exchange – purchasing an investment property/vacation rental in Kauai. This was quite an undertaking and I’ve learned a lot about buying investment properties from afar, the local real estate market in Kauai, how to evaluate properties and how to set up and run a vacation rental. I’m now happy to own a piece of paradise in Kauai and grow roots there. Sooner or later I’m looking forward to spending more time or even retiring on the island.
The process of buying such a property far from where I live has been somewhat nerve-wrecking. I am now offering others who want to own a piece of paradise in Kauai to help them with their own adventure and put my learnings to use by making it easy for them. Interested? Check out Kauai Property Finders!
As a big JJ Abrams fan, I couldn’t help but watch “The Cloverfield Paradox” on Netflix right after it came out. Despite some not-so-great reviews, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Readers of this blog may also know that I’m an even bigger LOST fan and I couldn’t help but notice several similarities or even Easter eggs that may link the Cloverfield Paradox and LOST:
There is a scene in which a character is trapped in compartment on the space station that quickly fills with water. Before her miserable end, she appears – now fully submerged – at the hatch and puts her hand on the window in a gesture to say good bye to her friends, which is exactly what Charlie did (with “Not Penny’s boat” written on his palm) before he drowned.
One the alarm sounds in the space station seemed to be the same as one in the LOST hatch.
During an anomaly that occurred in the space station, one wall became highly magnetized and metal objects started flying there, getting “stuck” on the wall while putting a character at risk. LOST fans know that the same happened in the Swan station during “system failure”.
Talking of which, on the space station two keys have to be used to activate the Shephard (in LOST, Jack’s last name which is alluding to his role among the survivors), which appears somewhat similar to the failsafe key used by Desmond during system failure.
I might need to watch the movie again to see other similarities, but these are the main ones for now.
By the way, due to LOST, I became a huge fan of Michael Giacchino’s music as well. I was surprised that he was not involved in this movie’s soundtrack, but the music is nonetheless worthy of listening to on its own.
(This is the continuation of Travel Tips – Part 1)
Rental Cars/Ground Transportation
- I don’t rent any more unless I take my family to Hawaii for a leisure trip. Use Uber (or Lyft). You won’t waste time picking up and dropping off the car, finding a gas station close to the airport, and you won’t have to navigate in areas you’re not familiar with.
- I use taxies only when waiting for an Uber takes too long, e.g. when arriving at my destination and the wait time exceeds 10 mins.
- If you do use a cab, insist on paying with a credit card. Buckle up, cabs and cab drivers are scary!
- If you absolutely need a rental car, sign up for their frequency program as well. I found that Hertz Gold was useful because it allows you to pick your car up more quickly and skip the counter.
- Instead of points for the rental car program, you might want to choose the option to get airline miles instead. They’re more useful.
- If you need to drive yourself, think about bringing a good, old-fashioned Garmin GPS since it allows you to be independent of your phone battery and data coverage and you can also navigate and talk at the same time.
- Especially on early rides to the airport, look at Uber as soon as you get up to make sure you know what the wait times are and keep an eye on those while you get ready.
- If you have trouble with your Uber, e.g. the car is in poor condition, tell Uber and rate the driver accordingly. Their customer support is very helpful, fast and you’re doing other riders a favor.
- Less important than with airlines, but if you have specific chains you frequent more than others, joining the frequent guest program makes sense.
- When booking, be sure to use corporate or AAA rates.
- If you need flexibility and may have to cancel or modify your reservation, book direct vs. through 3rd parties like Expedia or even PriceLine. Don’t prepay in those cases.
- Get a room further from the elevator.
- Some hotel chains, e.g. Hilton, now allow you to pick an actual room when “checking in”. Hilton also started offering electronic room keys via one’s smart phone.
- Pack shirts and pants that don’t wrinkle.
- If you do have to use the hotel iron, test it first on a towel to make sure it’s not going to wreak havoc on your clothes.
- Get a paper copy of your final invoice. Somehow emailed invoices from hotels come in late or not at all for some reason.
- Don’t wait till last minute with packing.
- Stay organized (see my app Travel PackList) and account not only for things you need to pack, but also things you need to “do” before you leave such as notifying your bank and credit card companies if you travel internationally or turning off your water to avoid your housing from getting flooded if a waterline leaks.
- Pack extra clothes in case your get stuck and need to extend your trip or you spill coffee on yourself.
- Get decent luggage, but don’t overspend. Practical beats overly fancy or fashionably. These things will get dinged up.
- Mark your suitcases and roll-aboards. I once barely caught a guy who was about to walk away with my luggage because his looked identical.
- Don’t forget a jacket and/or umbrella.
- Pack work-out clothes.
- Bring a stuff sack for used and dirty clothes, so you won’t have to mix them with the clean stuff in your suitcase.
- If you have liquids like mouth wash etc., wrap the bottles in a Zip-Lock bag, in case they spill.
- Pack shoes in plastic or draw-string bags.
- If you want to sleep on the plane, bring a neck pillow. Memory foam pillows are nice, but they are bulky to store, so I prefer inflatable ones.
- Bring a light jacket or hoodie in your carry-on luggage in case it gets chilly.
- Get the Mobile Pass app for international travel, which makes entering the country easier and faster.
- Only drive in foreign countries if you’re pretty comfortable doing it.
- Avoid getting behind the wheel of a car after an overnight flight especially if you’re not familiar with the area or even the country.
- Get the TripIt app to keep all your trip info organized and handy. Consider TripIt Pro. The Seat Tracker and other features could be helpful, but note that Seat Tracker doesn’t always work reliably.
- If something really goes sideways, complaining through the company’s web site is a good start, but also don’t forget about social media channels e.g. Twitter. Companies are motivated to respond quickly to public complaints to maintain a good image.
- Register with travel.state.gov when you go abroad, just in case. Hold your mail when you’re gone.
- If you’re gone a lot, a remote-enabled door bell like Ring can come in handy. I also like Canary for monitoring the house when I’m gone (it sends notifications when activity is detected).
- Invest in a good pair of noise reduction headsets if you tend to take long flights (I use Bose Quiet Comfort). They’re not cheap but make all the difference. I also like Apple’s EarPods for when I’m in the airport.
- I like to dress in layers and tend to wear moisture wicking clothes that are light and don’t wrinkle since I’m more likely to get hot than cold. With layers you can add or shed to be comfortable. Those clothes often also use materials that prevent odors, which is helpful on long trips.
- TripAdvisor and Yelp! are your friends when trying to find restaurants etc. Pay it back and post reviews yourself.
I hope you picked up a few things that will make your next trip easier! Do you have any travel advice to share? Please post a comment.
As a frequent traveler, who travels mostly for work at least once or twice a month, I have over time assembled quite a list of little tricks and “best practices” to make life on the road easier and more bearable. Hopefully you’ll find some of these useful for your own travels:
- Whatever airline you fly, either join their frequent flyer program or use one of your existing memberships (most airlines have several partner airlines). Miles can only help and rumor has it that people who are members of a frequent flyer program are less likely to get “bumped”.
- Try to stick to one (or two) airlines and their partners, so you don’t spread your miles around too much. (If your miles are in a lot of different programs, check out points.com).
- Keep an eye on expiring miles. If you approach expiration, use “dine for miles” or magazine subscriptions in exchange for miles to generate activity on your account to keep it active.
- Whatever your primary airline is, seriously consider getting their rewards credit card. Usually signing up is rewarded by a healthy chunk of extra miles, early boarding privileges, free checked luggage, etc.
- Once you’ve reached a higher level/status in your main frequent flyer program, take a look at the platinum level of whatever their program’s credit card is. That way you may get free companion tickets, (discounted) lounge access and qualifying miles which will make it easier to maintain your status.
- That said, lounges sound exciting, but unless you have very long layovers, they’re often not practical because you won’t have time to use them in between flights. If you travel internationally a lot, they are more useful. LoungeBuddy is a useful app if you frequently use lounges.
- Even if you reach higher status levels, don’t bet on getting upgraded. I found that despite high status I often ended up being #16 of 35 people fighting for 2 empty business class seats.
- Nonetheless, check in as early as you can, in most cases 24 hrs before departure.
- Always board early if you can, especially if you bring a roll-aboard. A higher level of status and/or the airline’s rewards credit card will help get priority boarding.
- Install the airline’s iOS or Android mobile app. Easy online check in, notifications, gate info, and electronic boarding passes make life quite a bit easier.
- Avoid connections. If you can’t help it, avoid connections with less than an hour in between. Any slight delay would leave you having to rebook because you’ll likely miss your next flight. Avoid itineraries with multiple connections. Try to stick to a single airline and its partners (each way), so you are less likely to miss connections or have to change terminals for connecting flights.
- If you have connecting flight, get a seat in the first third of the aircraft to save time getting off the plane and to your next gate. Some apps even include airport maps or walking directions. Know your next gate and where you arrive before you step off the plane.
- The later in the day your flight, the higher the chance it will be delayed.
- Know when your departure airport will be busy (e.g. 6-8 AM in most cases) and plan extra time for security. I always try to be at least 1:15 hrs early for my flight (for domestic flights).
- Sign up for TSA Pre – it’s worth it! Global Entry is a good idea of you fly a lot internationally. CLEAR is a nice idea, but a lot of airports don’t support it yet and if you have TSA Pre or Global Entry, it doesn’t save much time.
- Go for aisle seats – the ability to get up and stretch or use the bathroom without asking your neighbor to get up is worth it. If you can’t get an aisle seat, go for middle. I found that while windows are nice, asking two people to get up when I needed to use the bathroom was not fun. More often than not, there’s not that much to see anyway.
- Reserve seats as soon as you buy your ticket. Watch out for seats with limited recline. Check out the app SeatGuru.
- If you get stranded or otherwise impacted by a significant delay, start with your airline’s mobile app to rebook yourself, which works surprisingly well and doesn’t require being on hold with the airline. If that doesn’t work, call the the airline immediately. It’s fine to let them know that you are significantly inconvenienced by the delay (e.g. missed meetings etc.). They may at least offer you extra miles, upgrades or a travel voucher. If they don’t offer, ask. The higher your status, the better they’ll treat you and you may have priority waitlist status etc.
- Register your phone numbers with the airline’s frequent flyer program. When you have to call them, they may match your phone number with you automatically which expedites the process. If you have higher status, you will have special numbers to call with shorter wait times.
- Get a nice backpack (not too large). Being able to carry things on your back may not always look fashionable, but it’s much easier, you’ll have both hands free and if needed, it’s possible to sprint through the terminal to catch your next flight. Some backpacks look sleek without outer pockets, but I’d argue they’re not very practical if you just want to reach in and find a charging cable. Outer pockets with separate zippers help.
- Always pack your phone’s charging cable and charger in your carry-on luggage. I’d also recommend having a charged battery pack ready at all times. Don’t rely on chargers in the plane. Plus you’ll be able to charge your phone in your backpack while walking off the plane and through the airport if needed.
I hope you enjoyed this information. Check out Part 2 for rental cars/ground transportation, hotels and more!
Let me start with: I like Apple, the company and its products. As a developer, I like the MacOS App Store and I appreciate Apple reviewing apps to ensure high quality as well as security. Hence I’m cool with app sandboxing even though that makes developing utilities pretty challenging. I get all that. But my experience with the reviewers has been “varied” – to say the least. One particulay case makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up:
In 2014, I created a utility app that required a certain level of file access. I went through several rounds of submit / reject / re-submit / re-reject / etc. At one point, I actually got a phone call from a friendly Apple App Store reviewer. He wasn’t allowed to provide me with a solution, but he did strongly “hint” at what I was to do to make it through the review process. I did exactly that – and got rejected again. So I gave up.
Just now, 1.5 years later, I said “what the hell” and rewrote the very same app in Swift – just for fun – simplifying some of the functionality while adding a simple Downloads folder entitlement. And I got rejected again with somewhat cryptic (and to some extent nonsensical) comments, which reminded me of my first experience. When I replied and asked for clarification, they responsponded and suggested I approach it just like I had done in my first rejected Objective C version. Fine, so I basically implemented the exact functionalty of the old version, almost line by line. The resulting app did everything exactly like the old app, same logic, same flow, same UI, same approach to sandboxing. I re-submitted – and it got approved!!!
What am I supposed to make of that?! I know the Apple reviewers are human and make mistakes or at least have different views. Either way, it’s pretty ironic that the very same app that was repeatedly rejected now got approved. Are the guidelines that much open to interpretation?! Again, I’m all good with Apple reviewing submitted apps and everyting, but please don’t make it SO hard, Apple! Don’t make your developers waste so much of their lives trying to make it through the review process…!
For two and half months I have been equipped with a Fitbit (the Fitbit One, to be specific, which is is a clip-on device). It started with a series of step competitions with people from work. Previously, I had not carried or worn any kind of fitness tracker. I guess I was and still am holding out for the 2nd iteration of the Apple Watch, but this was a chance to experiment and learn ahead of the mystical Apple device appearing on the market.
The “One” keeps track of a number of metrics, including steps taken, number of flights of stairs climbed, “active minutes”, sleep duration & quality, etc. I wore the tracker 24 hours a day, even if that meant wearing a wrist sleeve at night that the tracker slips into.
The suggested/default goal is to take 10,000 steps per day, which I initially didn’t have a good sense for. Is this a lot – or not? Some interesting thoughts on that goal can be found in this article, so I’m not going to repeat it here.
These last few months have been enlightening. Here’s what I’ve taken away from this experience:
- The “datafication” of the body is natural for me – a numbers guy. It certainly raises awareness and surfaces new information and helps validate/invalidate assumptions everyone is making about themselves.
- 10,000 steps is actually quite a bit. Even though I work out 7 days a week, I practically never reached that mark without specific extra effort. Even with additional effort to take walks etc., 10,000 remained challenging on most days.
- That means I’m really not moving all that much thanks to an office job that mostly glues me to my desk and phone. Even during fairly active weekends, this turned out to be a stretch goal. It certainly doesn’t hurt to be aware of this and make an effort to walk more.
- My biggest learning is this, well, it’s more of a theory: quantity is not quality. I think this is where the whole concept is a little off. Even people who do take 10,000 steps a day may not get enough exercise. And that’s where people get it wrong: It’s not just a matter of getting the steps in, it’s about getting your heart rate up for an extended period of time to somewhere close to your target range and keeping it there. That means you’ll have to actually sweat, feel the pain and huff and puff a little. Just taking steps via casual walking isn’t going to do it. Even the folks that beat me consistently with way more steps (from walking) every day I don’t think get that good a workout and aren’t as fit as me. I don’t think there’s a replacement for working hard and exercising beyond purely walking. When it comes down to it, I rather work out hard for 30 mins than walk for 60 mins. High intensity doesn’t always give you that many steps and that’s okay. 45 mins of Tae Kwon Do, which can be quite intense, netted only a modest amount of steps, but anybody who’s done it will tell you what an intense workout it is.
- Even the venerable CDC recognizes that as it recommends “Adults need at least 2:30 hrs of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).” (1 of several variations of exercise they propose).
- Not surprisingly, things like cycling, stretching or weight lifting basically don’t net any steps at all, but we all know that these are very valid forms of exercise.
- I don’t sleep as much as I thought I did. On average 6:45 hours a day. Still, not bad. And I have confirmation that I fall asleep very quickly and sleep peacefully like a baby, without tossing and turning. They call it high sleep efficiency. 🙂
All in all, I’ve learned from this experience. Maybe similar to when I carefully tracked all my food intake and exercise through MyFitnessPal (see my diet journey), measuring this part of your life will create useful insight and dispel misconceptions. That said, always having he Fitbit One clip on 24 hours a day got old and I stopped, at least for now. But the knowledge it generated will certainly influence me going forward. Number of steps aside, I will certainly continue to focus on the quality and intensity of my exercise beyond just the number of steps.
You’ve probably gathered by now that I’m a gadget guy. Some might even call me an early adopter although I’d argue that I typically wait for version 2 of anything brand new before I entertain buying it, which technically disqualifies me as early adopter. The “connected home” is one of those things I really didn’t “get”. I didn’t see the point.
That changed recently. It started with the replacement of my A/C, which was a big (and unfortunately expensive) project. Looking at which thermostat to use, I ended upwith the ecobee3, which – similar to the Nest – has a touch screen, proximity sensor, etc. The cool thing is that it connects to a remote sensor which I placed upstairs. Both the thermostat and the sensor not only register temperature, but also whether that level of the house is occupied. The system can now automatically and intelligently turn itself on and off not only vis a schedule but also based on whether someone is in the house. I can also make it so that at night only the upstairs sensor is used for temperature regulation (who cares what temperature it is downstairs when all the bedrooms are upstairs?!). I can change temperatures and setting from my iPhone and iPad and see from anywhere what my the temperatures are upstairs and downstairs and even if these levels are occupied. This info is accessible from the ecobee app as well as from the iOS Notification Center. Moreover, I can use Siri to control temperature and switch to different modes. The iPad app offers various stats on what’s going on in the house. I was starting to get hooked…
Then I was rethinking home security. ADT is not only not exactly cheap, but the technology started to look a little long in the tooth. So I selected the Canary home security device. It constantly monitors the downstairs area with camera (it also has night vision), audio and motion detection. It arms and disarms itself when registered users enter and exit the house. It records audio and video snippets and makes them available within a timeline for viewing from all iOS devices. It sends notifications if activity is detected while the device is armed and one can trigger a built-in audio alarm and call the police remotely. Canary is supposed to “learn” patterns in order to automatically distinguish suspicious from normal activity. Of course a live video feed is also available (great for checking in on the family when I’m traveling) as well as widgets for iOS’s Notification Center. Oh, did I mention it also measures air quality, temperature and humidity over time?
Now it’s starting to make sense to me. While I don’t care about turning on lights from my phone or changing their color hue “automagically” in my home, monitoring temperature and home security make a lot of sense. It’s amazing how all this information is put at one’s fingertips and how seamlessly these systems allow for monitoring and controlling the home, no matter if you’re at home or somewhere halfway around the world. I sense this may be the starting point for more in future. Now I’m also starting to wonder what our homes will be like 3-5 years from now.
On 12/31/2015 I purchased a set of Sonicare electric toothbrushes at the local Costco store. When I prepared one of the brushes for use, I noticed a small amount of white deposit on the top. I didn’t think much of it and scraped it off with my fingernail. Maybe this was some kind of manufacturing residue. No big deal. We started using the toothbrushes.
A few days later I got around to unpacking the 2 charging units as well. At the bottom of one of them, I came across a dark grime that reminded me of what my old brushes had at the bottom. My spider sense went off! I turned the unit around and saw dried foam on the top as well (photos below). Clearly this unit had been used before and I’m sure so had the brush I had already been using for several days at that point! I realized that somehow a refurb/used toothbrush and charging unit had been re-packged and sold as new. Disgusting! (The package/box was clearly sealed and had not been opened!)
I immediately reached out to Sonicare customer service via chat and also Twitter in early January. The social media guys were somewhat responsive and kept promising I would be contacted by customer support, but nobody did.
Mid January I was finally asked for a proof of purchase, which I provided. I was then issued a return label for FedEx. I told them I had no intentions of returning the items because I had – unfortunately – already started using them. I asked for a refund instead. That was 1/18.
As of 1/31, I’ve heard nothing. I certainly would like a refund, but I’m mostly interested in is an apology and someone trying to explain how a used unit got resold (which is disgusting!) and what they will do to ensure this doesn’t happen again. But overall I’m very disappointed with the follow-up and lack of care. Obviously toothbrushes are personal care items requiring highest quality and hygienic standards from the manufacturer. Sonicare has obviously failed miserably and resold used units as new. From a consumer’s perspective, this is scandalous and their lack of apparent care extremely disappointing. I must conclude that Sonicare doesn’t care!
I’m in my mid 40s and exercise very regularly. And when I say regularly
, I mean very
regularly… (see Working out 7 Days a Week?!
). About 7 years ago (years before I started my more intense exercise routine), I had my first episode of atrial fibrillation (AFib), which feels somewhere between weird and scary. At the time, I started going through all kinds of EKGs, ultrasounds and other tests (you name it). The end result: my heart is healthy, I have no other risk factors and I don’t abuse drugs or alcohol. The official term for this is “Lone AFib”
(LAF), which basically means nobody knows where it comes from or what causes it.
Since then, I’ve now had a total 4 episodes:
- I ended up in the ER every time.
- Gaps in between were 4 years, and roughly 21 months thereafter.
- The first time I was admitted and converted back to normal sinus rhythm due to drugs overnight. The 2nd time I enjoyed a cardioversion (read: defibrillator & electroshock). The 3rd and 4th time I spontaneously converted while already in the ER but without clear reason – maybe it was the stress of the ER experience or that the Flecainide ended up working after all. (After the first incident, my doctor advised me to take Flecainide only in case I go into AFib, not as permanent treatment.)
- I stayed in AFib between 8 and 23 hours during those episodes.
Coming back to the mysterious trigger, there seems to be a common pattern that emerges from the various circumstances when my AFib episodes started:
- Walking off the mat after a Tae Kwon Do class on a Saturday morning and taking a swig from my water bottle (2 occasions, exact same situation and day and time of day!).
- Coming home from a jog and getting something to drink.
- Sitting down after a hike up a mountain and starting to sip water.
It seems obvious: the 2 factors that always appear to come together are 1) finishing cardio-intensive exercise (the heart going into recovery from high BPMs) and 2) swallowing liquid. I’m wondering if the nerves controlling the swallowing reflex/process (vagus nerve?) intersect with or related to the part of the nervous system controlling the heart rate or if there is another way these two bodily processes relate?
From what I’ve read and the doctors I’ve talked to, there is no clearly documented connection. And yet at least for me this pattern is obviously way too consistent to be coincidental.
I’d love to hear from others who’ve been diagnosed with “Lone AFib” as to whether they’ve experienced the same or similar patterns?
On a sidenote: has anyone found that Flecainide affects the blood sugar level (a maybe undocumented side effect)?
Please respond with comments.
Just having watched The Force Awakens, I couldn’t help but notice the almost overwhelming number of parallels it had with previous Star Wars movies, which go beyond the recurrence of familiar characters, machinery and phrases (“I have a bad feeling about this!”. Here’s my initial list:
- Bad guy in black with a mask in addition to emperor-like figure.
- Desert/sand planet
- A junker on a desert planet being called to a higher purpose (Anakin/Rey)
- Old, bearded uber-Jedi in seclusion on a remote planet (Luke/Yoda)
- Special light saber finding its way down to off-spring
- An old, greenish, tiny, wise creature as spiritual guide for the unexacting future Jedi.
- Evil superpower is in search of droid(s) containing key information about their good opponents.
- Breaking good guys out of a evil fortress.
- Dark bar with riff-raff and music..
- Kids being separated from parents and hidden away.
- Han in trouble with other bad guys.
- Rebel/resistance base is uncovered and attacked.
- A person with the force in need of completing their training (Luke/Kylo)
- The main bad guy’s struggle with the light side and being good.
- Destruction of a death star by X-wing fighters via exploiting a design weakness.
- The bad guy is punishing people (soldier types) who fail harshly.
- Torture by the main bad guy.
- The force awakening in someone who didn’t know about their origins/family tree (duh!)
- Generational reversal (parent vs. offspring being either good or evil)
Thanks to JJ Abrams, there are also some interesting contrasts with the Force Awakens:
- The bad guy tends to take off his mask and show a human/good side early on.
- Storm trooper defection.
- The bad guy has a bad sidekick reporting to the uber villain.
- The evil villain has a terrible temper.
- And he gets pretty beat up already early in the course of the trilogy.
- More obvious slapstick humor (“That’s not how the Force works!”)
- Nobody’s hand has been chopped off yet… 🙂
To stretch this even further, JJ has even brought a little bit of LOST into Star Wars with Ken Leung making an appearance and a theme of “parent issues“.
Update 3/28/16: Apparently I’m not the only one noticing the parallels. Check out this UPROXX article!