Material life upgrades

I am a lover of gadgets & trinkets of various kinds, and this page lists some of the most notable material goods that I currently or have previously owned. I wouldn’t call myself that much of a ‘collector’ as I end up selling most (>90%) of my possessions to facilitate my nomadic & low-income lifestyle. Hence, you will be seeing the result of a strong selection effect for quality, cost, and portability – though when I’m overseas many of the listed items are either in storage or being loaned out to friends. I also buy most things on the used market and am notorious among friends and family for finding the best deals (I can write up my process for this if requested). Unlike other such lists I’m not interested in listing out everything that I own, only items which I can confidently recommend.

Travel

  • Osprey Escapist 32L (backpack)
    • A while back I spent ~6 hours scouring forums and reviews to determine the most optimal backpack for my needs. After trying out (and returning) a few models I found this, which soon became one of my favorite possessions. I just LOVE the functionality of this thing; each component is well optimised and integrated for performing necessary (and desired) bag functions, and its super comfortable to wear for extended periods (especially for onebag-style travelling). I often live out of just this bag for 6+ month-long periods (to save costs on flights), but I can see how adaptive this bag would be for other activities. Hard recommend.
  • Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cubes (packing cubes)
    • I have like 9 of these (of varying sizes) which I scored for only $10 second-hand, but after using these for 1.5 years I would happily pay the full price. A must-have if you travel regularly; not only for the sake of organisation, but also saves time otherwise spent packing & unpacking your belongings.

Sensory

  • 90° flipped mirror glasses
    • These are extremely useful on a daily basis for reading a book or viewing a screen while resting your neck in a neutral position (sitting or lying down). Though I would recommend taking regular breaks to avoid straining your eyes!
  • Woojer vest (v.2)
    • An incredible piece of kit for multi-modal sensory experimentation, but also it just generally increases the hedonic value of music listening experiences when there is regular activity <100hz.
  • Mindplace Kasina + Ganzfeld glasses
    • Another great tool in the vibe engineering toolbox. To my knowledge the only mature AV product that allows you to play with your own audio tracks! Though the technology is very outdated and needs to be updated.
  • Nebula projector light
    • This is such insanely good value for hedons / dollar. I especially like having this pointed at the corner of my room on the ‘red’ colour setting. Very cheap to purchase on Aliexpress! I would also recommend the lasers that project symmetrical patterns onto your wall.
  • RGB laser light (20 patterns; link)
    • A bit more pricy but it literally turns your ceiling into a portal to an otherworldly dimension. Hard recommend.
  • High fidelity concert earplugs
    • Filters out only certain sound frequencies to make music live music more balanced while still protecting your ears. Also comes with a keychain! Please take care of your ears and avoid tinnitus.

Entertainment

  • PS Vita (1000)
    • This decade-old gaming device excels at gaming on-the-go; perfect for long flights or train rides! Compact, versatile, and beautiful to behold, it is also the perfect emulation machine for anything at or below the level of PSX graphics (note that you need will need to jailbreak which takes ~90 minutes – see here for detailed instructions).
  • iPad pro (1st gen)
    • I bought a very cheap older generation iPad pro, primarily for reading PDFs and watching videos while cooking. Really good value for using around the house!
  • War of the Ring: Second Edition (two players)
    • A masterpiece of asymmetrical combat and faithful to the source material! My favourite board game of all time. I recommend the ‘Lords of Middle Earth’ expansion, the Deluxe Game Mat & ring replicas for added engagement, and a good Howard Shore LotR playlist on for background ambience.

Wishlist:

Sports & Fitness

The biggest lifestyle mistake highly analytical / systematic people (e.g., bloggers with lists of life upgrades) make is not working out their organism (having a basic understanding of biological adaptation can help this). The second biggest mistake they make is not optimising for enjoyment (which usually determines workout frequency & intensity). The third biggest mistake is failing to actively select for whole body exercises (rather than targeting specific muscle groups), which is important because of the importance of microcausal processes (blog post pending).

  • Pull up bar
    • Attach it to a doorway that you walk through regularly and set yourself an intention to do x number of pull-ups each time you pass through, as if you are paying a toll to a metaphysical troll living under a metaphorical bridge. Bonus points if its freestanding and you can hang upside down from it like a bat! (inverted hangs are the best)

Skating

  • Comet cruiser
    • Nimble, light, and just begging to be slid across hot concrete, the comet cruiser is my go-to board for playful skating qualia and urban commutes (see this video for a demonstration of its versatility and responsiveness). Just google the name and you’ll find swathes of glowing reviews (e.g., Downhill 354’s ‘Best Cruiser Ever Made’). For the majority of skaters, its limitations are directly proportional to your skill level, so its a great investment regardless of how much skating experience you have.
  • Loaded Icarus (flex 2)
    • Specs: Paris V3 180mm, 85mm Caguama wheels, Bones red bearings.
    • While slow to start, riding this board around town feels like being strapped to an armored cloud gliding effortlessly over the pavement. Because of its engineered curvature (featuring wheel wells for deep carves) and flexible composition (bamboo & fiberglass), you can really throw your weight around on this thing knowing that you’ll bounce back into homeostasis – its a literal trampoline on wheels. Perfect for park rides and blasting around the pump track, but sometimes difficult to slow down due to its heft.

Climbing

Climbing – especially outdoor climbing – is so much fun and so good for your organism, and having climbing equipment on-hand gives you the invaluable freedom to hit your local crag whenever you feel like monkeying around. Its also inexpensive if you buy used gear, and the resell value is fairly stable in case you don’t want to make a significant sporting investment.1 Here is a list of essential gear that I recommend:

  • 60m dynamic rope (~9.7mm)
  • >10 quickdraws (I own 12 wire-gate & 3 regular)
  • Comfortable harness
  • La Sportiva Miura boots (I recommend velcro over laces)
  • 5+ locking carabiners
  • Interlocking chain personal anchor system (don’t use daisy chains!)
  • Prussic
  • Belay device (I recommend the Edelrid MegaJul)
  • (Optional) Figure Eight for smooth rappelling
  • (Optional) Belay glasses for neck health
  • (Optional) Cheap D-locking biner for emergency rappels on multi-pitch routes

Past: Elephant slackline (25m), mountain unicycle, Cyr wheel.
Wishlist: Trad climbing rack, alpine climbing gear.

Audio

A half-decent HiFi system is, in my opinion, one of the most effective hedonic upgrades for biological humans who have an interest in listening to music (especially relative to regular consumer spending habits).

Speaker system

My speaker system is my pride and joy, though it is worth mentioning that speaker positioning (1) (2) plays just as important a role in overall sound quality as does hardware. I’m a fan of near-field listening, and typically have <65hz frequencies bumped up a small amount.

  • Paradigm SE Atom (speakers)
    • These speakers really punch above their weight! Incredible value for money given that they include Paradigm’s patented 1” X-PAL aluminum-dome tweeter design. They’re also very snassy looking in glossy white.
  • Yamaha R-S700 (amplifier/receiver)
    • I will probably never upgrade from this receiver unless I ever (1) have a significant disposable income or (2) buy ridiculously power-hungry speakers. With 100W per channel, you’re more likely to damage your eardrums before hitting distortion levels. It also has a neat ‘Pure Direct’ function which ensures the shortest signal path from the input to the speakers, and dual aluminium-extruded heat sinks for effective heat dissipation. Horary for good engineering!
  • Yamaha YST-RSW300 (subwoofer)
    • One day I will buy an SVS PB-4000 (non-ported) or its equivalent, but until that day this sub is sufficient. I would say that it captures 80% of the value of an expensive sub at 5% of the cost (second-hand mind you).
  • MiniDSP SHD (+ UMIK-1)
    • Endgame kit. Just a brilliant integration of four distinct functions into a single sleek box: you have a low-distortion DAC, a programmable streamer, a preamp, and the main course, a digital signal processor. I’ve barely scraped the surface of what Dirac has to offer and am already blown away at the value proposition of this device. Its also just really fun to be able to visualize the topology of my room on a frequency response graph!

Past: Klipsch B20 Synergy (speakers), Topping D50s, Topping D10
Wishlist: MiniDSP, KEF LS50 Meta (speakers)

Portable Audio

  • Beyerdynamic Xelento (wired IEM)
    • This IEM has a surprisingly balanced frequency response, despite some online measurements suggesting that it has an aggressively tuned regression-to-the-mean V-shape. At least, with the included oval-shaped tips – when I use any other third-party tips it turns into a veritable bass cannon. I like the Tesla driver technology which concentrates the magnetic field resulting in vastly improved efficiency over standard DD’s, and the IEM shape is hella comfortable.
  • Hidizs S9 PRO (AMP & DAC)
  • Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro (bluetooth IEM)
    • Because tuning, and also convenience.
  • BLON BL03 (wired IEM)
    • Cheap, comfy, and not badly tuned – the holy grail of Chi-Fi! These make excellent xmas / bday gifts, just make sure to include an aftermarket braided cable and the spinfit CP-100 eartips or you will lose out on value.
  • Koss Porta Pro w/ YAXI pads (wired over-ear headphone)
    • Insane mid-bass and also super comfy! (perhaps you are noticing a pattern)

Past: Bottlehead Crack + Speedball (OTL headphone amplifier), Sennheiser 6XX (wired headphone), Mangird Tea (wired IEM), Sony XM3 (wired headphone), Sennheiser 58X (wired headphone), Massdrop 02+SDAC (DAC/AMP), TRN V90 (wired IEM), CCA C12 (wired IEM), TRN V80 (wired IEM).
Wishlist: Thieaudio Monarch MKII (wired IEM), Sennheiser HD 800 S

Other

  • Akai MPC Live
    • I love instrumental hip hop and bought this device to gain more insight into the production process, primarily sample-based techniques in the vein of Madlib, J Dilla, MIKE, etc.
  • 21 String Travel Kora (vegan)
    • The Kora is a double-bridged harp-lute that happens to be my second-favorite acoustic instrument after the double bass, which is too large and cumbersome for me to entertain owning. Because it is an esoteric instrument, I can be bad at playing it and still look impressive in a social environment.
  • Tascam DR-05
    • Great field recorder if you want to be able to capture sound with a higher fidelity than your phone microphone.

Health

  • Xiaomi HEPA air purifier 2H
    • This has great air-sucking power and the filters are cheap. I set the programmable setting on highest, and promptly disconnected the appliance from my internet & deleted the app (for privacy). Now I just set it on full for an hour before I enter by bedroom to wind down & sleep.2
  • Prescription glasses: whatever catches my eye on aliexpress
    • An order of magnitude cheaper than buying in-store, but the links are unstable to post here. Just shop around!

Hygiene

  • Bidet
    • The first time you use a bidet you will feel uncomfortable. By the fifth time you will look back on your pre-bidet existence with a mixture of disgust and confusion: how is society so broken that this technology is not more commonplace in the west? Also, toilet paper is a stupid waste of trees.
  • Toothbrush: 360PRO Sonic Electric Toothbrush
    • A sonic toothbrush is reportedly more effective than a regular toothbrush – I saw one on sale for 75% off so thought why not. The high frequency vibration feels strange to start off but my teeth appear to be cleaner!
  • Toothpaste: Oral-B Pro Health Mint Toothpaste (which contains stannous fluoride) & Biomed Calcimax (which contains Hydroxyapatite).
    • I prefer to cycle between each brand to get a spread of expected beneficial effects.
  • Shaving: Muhle R89 Safety Razor
    • Ain’t nothing like a good old fashioned wet shave with a Muhle safety razor and a thick dollop of shaving cream.
  • Dental floss scythes (aka: picks)
    • I have a bad habit of not flossing unless I can reliably not have the string slip between my fingers. Inspired by the illustrious Scott Alexander.

Cooking

  • Clever dripper coffee maker
    • This product will not produce the best cup of coffee, but it will get you 90% of the way there with 10% of the required effort. I use it with #4 size filters, and find it to be a delightful blend of V60-style pour over and french press-style immersion brewing.
  1. Contrary to popular belief, used climbing equipment is perfectly safe so long as it has been stored properly, so I recommend buying used assuming that the seller seems trustworthy and that you have performed an inspection. The most important factor to consider when considering soft gear longevity (e.g., slings, ropes, harnesses) is usage – primarily friction (from rubbing against the rock) and large falls – rather than mere age. In my opinion hard gear (e.g., biners, draws, belay devices) can be assumed safe in the absence of reasons to suspect otherwise, such as knowledge that it has been dropped >10m on a hard surface. ↩︎
  2. If you live in a first world country then you should probably own an air purifier: see (1), (2), (3), (4). Also, you should get rid of your fireplace if you haven’t already: (1), (2). ↩︎
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