The 10 Year Search for the Perfect Water Bottle

Throughout my day, I drink about a gallon (or two) of water. I’ve had a miserable time finding a water bottle that I like. I started with a SIGG which was a disaster. The bottle started smelling musty after about a week, and started tasting musty about a week after that. No matter what I tried, the bottle was disgusting, and it leaked. Plus the little loop at the top seemed handy, but was actually not all that convenient to grab and go.

Sign bottle that I used about 10 years ago.
Sign bottle that I used about 10 years ago.

After the OXO bottle, I tried the outrageously expensive S’well Matte Army Green bottle. I loved the look of the bottle, but it was remarkably difficult to deal with. The Swell bottle did keep beverages cold (or warm) for hours, but that was its only benefit. The bottom of the bottle had this funny dimpled effect it (similar to a Coke bottle). that, in conjunction with the unbelievably top-heavy lid, made the bottle incredibly unstable. I felt like I was constantly picking the bottle up from the floor, because it constantly was falling over. Plus, there was no way to grab this bottle quickly. You need to dedicate a whole hand to carrying it around, and that—for me—was a no go. After about a semester, the bottle started to smell, which wasn’t so swell, and because there was no easy way to clean it, I moved on.

S'well bottle. Not so swell. Looks great, but not functional.
S’well bottle. Not so swell. Looks great, but not functional.

Then, I found this great, clear OXO bottle that screwed apart in the middle for easy cleaning. I LOVED this bottle and loved the handy wire cap connector, which made for easy, one-finger, grab and go. I also loved that it was clear, so I could see how much I had left in the bottle.

The OXO unscrews in the middle for easy cleaning.The OXO Strive Advance unscrews in the middle for easy cleaning.

I loved this bottle so much that I bought two. They mistakenly got put in the dishwasher once, and that was the end. Somehow, the dishwasher made the latex seal in the bottle fail, and they leaked horribly after that. Despite the leakiness, I still used the bottles for a while, but then the wire cap holder started to rust.

OXO Bottle that I loved until it leaked.
OXO Bottle that I loved until it leaked.

Then, after the OXO bottle, I went total hipster and just used a Mason jar for a year. It was great because it had a generous capacity, wasn’t precious (so it was easily replaceable if I left it behind somewhere), and was easy to clean. It just wasn’t very portable.

Hipster standby.
Hipster standby.

So, completely on a whim, I bought an ecoVessel Bold.

ecoVessel Bold, is taller than it looks.
ecoVessel Bold, is taller than it looks.

Instantly, I really liked this bottle. The loop makes it easy to grab and carry. The lid screws apart in two places, one big mouth, one little mouth, so that’s good and makes it easy to fill and clean. It’s durable, but somehow after using mine for a few months, I cracked the metal on the big lid. Not a problem, I contacted ecoVessel, and they were able to send me a replacement (three, in fact) to ensure that I’ll be able to use this bottle for a very, very long time.

Unfortunately, the ecoVessel Bold model has since been discontinued (of course), but the ecoVessel Boulder line looks just as sleek (if not exactly the same), comes in a variety of colors, and is triple insulated.  I like the fact that they sell replacement parts and that  their customer service was attentive and polite. I would recommend ecoVessel highly.

Finally! My search for a decent water bottle is over… I think!

 

Homemade Headboard

Molly and I made a headboard last week. We also made some pillows to go with it. I have been searching for a headboard for our guest room, and actually found on at Marshall’s, but wasn’t thrilled with the $300 price tag on it. I thought: I can do this cheaper, better, and on my own. So I did.

The finished headboard and pillows.
I bought 3 2×3’s at the hardware store for $6. My parent’s neighbor, Mike, cut a scrap board to perfect size. I used some old decking screws to assemble it.
Meanwhile, Molly helped out by inspecting the polyester batting.
I used 3M Spray 77 adhesive (one of my go-to products) to affix a piece of foam to the headboard. It was slightly smaller, but that’s OK.
Then I swaddled the whole thing in polyester batting, and stapled it using my wonderful new staple gun from Aldi.
I had a great piece of Irish linen left over from my curtain project, so I stretched that over the headboard, tacking it N, S, E, and W.
Then, working my way around, using my staple gun, I tacked around the backside of the board.
This is how it looked from the back.
Molly and I added some cheap interfacing to the back (to cover up all the rough edges and staples.
And some little felt things to make sure the board didn’t scratch the floor.
I finished off with four hand-made wooden buttons that I bought in Estonia, that I tied through and affixed with wire.

Total cost was about $40.

Talking Trees

What we don’t know is amazing…Using strands of fungi as a network, trees and plants communicate with one another and help each other to survive.

Plants can even ward off invaders through “Earth’s natural internet.”

Read the whole article at: Using strands of fungi as a network, trees and plants communicate with one another and help each other to survive. | Big Think

Must Have: Mail Butler

MailButler_512x512@2x

I get a LOT of e-mail (about 200 a day) from various people, and managing e-mail is tough. I’m a hardcore Mac user, and use the AppleMail app, which—compared to other options—is kind of lightweight. However, I really hate the GUI for Outlook and I haven’t found anything better.

Until now.

About a week ago, I ran across “Mail Butler.” It allows MacMail users to send e-mail at a later time. This is a functionality that is *really* helpful to me, and worth its weight in gold. Best of all, it seamlessly (and I do mean seamlessly) blends right in to the existing AppleMail app.

MailButler is a personal e-mail assistant for efficient and productive work with Apple Mail. With its various functions, it simplifies, optimizes and streamlines working with emails in daily life.

 

Mail Butler does a million things too:

  • Follow-Up No response? Get reminded.

    Get a follow-up reminder when there is no response to a particular email. Isn’t it hard to have an overview over many emails from lots of different conversations? In order to avoid leaving some messages without follow-ups, you always need to keep in mind, which of your emails hasn’t been responded yet. MailButler can do just that for you. The Follow-Up feature allows you to schedule a follow–up reminder that will notify you when there is no response to a particular email.

  • Email Tracking Track and Analyze

    With Email Tracking you always know if the recipient has actually opened your email. It provides you the necessary information to plan your next step in communication with a person. In private email conversations, tracking secures you from unnecessary repeats and reminders.

    In businesses, this feature turns into a strong analytical tool and becomes an absolute must-have for everybody doing sales, CRM or customer support.

  • Email Scheduling,Write now – send later

    MailButler allows you to schedule an email to be sent at a specific date and time. Thus, you can fulfill lots of tasks beforehand by writing several emails at once and letting MailButler secure their scheduled delivery later.

    Compose birthday emails way ahead of the actual date. Simply define the exact date when to send the email and MailButler will make sure that your email arrives just in time.

    Working late? With MailButler you can compose emails whenever you like and make sure that they are not sent before the next working day starts. By this, it appears to the email’s recipient that you are only available during business hours.

  • Undo Send No more failures

    With MailButler you won’t have the fear to send an unfinished, incorrect or in any way mistaken email ever again.

    Once you’ve pressed “send”, MailButler keeps the email in your computer’s outbox for a short while – just define how long you want this safety period to be. During this time you can undo the sending of the email and correct it the way you want.
    From now on you’ll be secured from any incidents.

  • Attachment Reminder Perfect at the first try

    Ever sent an email with apologies right after you forgot to actually attach the mentioned files? This won’t happen again – MailButler will scan your text for specific keywords and remind you in case it doesn’t find any attachment in the email, which was supposed to include one.

  • Upload to Cloud
    Attachments with no limitations

    The file size limits of your or the recipient’s email provider can get really annoying. When you need to send a large attachment, you are often urged to find alternative ways to finally make it happen.
    With MailButler, you can save yourself these unnecessary efforts. Every time your email’s attachments exceed a certain size, MailButler will automatically upload it to the cloud (Dropbox and Google Drive supported!) and add the corresponding links to your email instead.

    No email with attachments will be blocked anymore meaning no waste of time for you.

  • Emails To Notes,Convenience has been taken to a whole new level: MailButler allows you to easily convert emails in Apple’s Mail application into notes. This conversion includes formatting, file attachments, tags, reminder date and other meta information.

    Notes created by MailButler contain a direct reference to the source email that it was created from. This allows to easily find the email correspondence within your favorite note taking tool. This association between notes and emails works in both directions, of course.

  • Signatures
    Let your signature speak for you

    With MailButler you can create beautiful email signatures by selecting between our various templates. You can configure photo images, text and colors to define the signature’s individual style.

    For advanced users, MailButler allows to easily re-use elements of your personal or professional website. Include hyperlinks to websites, social media profiles or personal images.

    Whether a professional-looking signature for your colleagues and business partners, or a creative and beautiful one for friends and family – MailButler makes sure it is personal and unique.

Sick of letting e-mail control you? It’s time for you to control your e-mail. If you need help getting your inbox in order, check out Mail Butler, it’s made by a company called Fringiest based in Berlin, Germany, They develop useful software for Mac OS X. The company was founded with the vision to make the life of Mac users easier, and help them complete their daily tasks in the most convenient and elegant way. The developers perceive security, privacy and productivity as the most important modern problems with their main products particularly target these problems. Their software includes an Apple Mail assistant MailButler, and a VPN client Shimo. They have one target: to simplify life and optimize one’s daily productivity, and they meet that goal quite well.

 

Spring Cleaning

Time for a little bit of spring cleaning. Now with Molly living in Florence part time, there seems to be evidence of cat everywhere. In such tiny quarters, a little mess goes a long way, so I brought out the big guns: my grandma’s vacuum cleaner (that I have had forever.)

Angie's Eureka Empress Vacuum Cleaner

This vacuum cleaner will be 60 years old next year. It is—without reservation—the most trusty appliance I own. It needs zero maintenance. Works like a charm, and cleans really well. Most amazing: I can still find bags that fit!

In any case, Florence is a little more tidy and ready for summer… at least inside. Outside maintenance starts happening next week. That’s when I’ll tackle the hot water tank that seems to have stopped working.

 

Chipotle Blew It.

Chipotle blew it.

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of Chipotle. I appreciate that their food (as fast food goes) is reasonably healthy and at least makes the effort to nod to organic and non-GMO ingredients. I also love the consistent quality of the food at Chipotle. A veggie fajita salad is exactly the same in New York as it is in London as it is in Toronto—and after spending more than a year in a veritable food dessert in Denmark, my first Chipotle salad in London was a true treat. Chipotle service, on the other hand, varies. Workers in the UK are pleasant and in Canada too, workers in New York are pretty consistently brusque and miserable, and in Southern California Chipotle workers are much more generous with their servings of guacamole than anywhere else.

Until about a month ago, I ate at Chipotle about once a week, on average. I have the “burrito button” on my Apple Watch, and the Chipotle app on my iPhone. I am definitely a fan. Which is exactly why I am so very disappointed by watching a company that I truly admire slowly crash and burn.

For those of you who may not be up to speed, Chipotle closed 43 restaurants in the Pacific Northwest this past October over concerns about E.Coli. First off, let me be clear: E.Coli. happens… too frequently. This might be because the U.S. has flimsy oversight of food security, but that’s a whole other article. But here’s where the problem started for Chipotle. To their credit, they closed the restaurants, and I am sure that some executive or internal PR person thought it wise to demonstrate (through the media) that “out of an abundance of caution” Chipotle was being proactive by responsibly overreacting to what, at the time, seemed to be a small issue. Most restaurants wouldn’t dare close a single outlet for fear of tarnishing their reputation. I mean, seriously, does anyone think that any other chain—Red Lobster, Olive Garden, TGIFriday’s—has never had this problem?

Unfortunately, by being responsible, Chipotle was also wrong.

The Narrative Problem
By trying to use the news as a PR vehicle, Chipotle almost immediately lost control of the narrative. Now, rather than controlling the story, the story began—almost instantly—to control Chipotle. The message came across loud and clear: 43 restaurants closed. BOOM. That’s it. In the mind of the consumer, the only question is: Why… why did those restaurants close? The answer was too convenient: E.Coli. BOOM AGAIN! Chipotle made the grievous error of linking their brand to E.Coli. That is, in the minds of most busy consumers, they don’t care much about the whole story, all they need to know is that there is a problem with Chipotle and E.Coli, and… well, that’s all they really want to know. So the message is clear: Stay away from Chipotle until we know why or what the problem is.

Again, this isn’t a problem unique to Chipotle, but most companies have crisis response teams in place. Chipotle may have a crisis response team, but that team was either completely out of their league, asleep at the switch, or on vacation. As the inverted PR machine began to work against Chipotle, the damage began to spread. And then, even worse, as cases of other E.Coli. and norovirus contaminated Chipotle meals began to spread to other states, the crisis management team seemed to truly out to lunch (or maybe sickened by E.Coli. themselves?)

The “Update on Food Safety” page on the Chipotle website was (and continues to be) consistently lagging in its updates and clarity. It is also too verbose and shrouded in mystery, which only perpetuates fear and uncertainty. Even for Chipotle fanboys like me, I wouldn’t set foot into a Chipotle, because as Judge Judy says, “if something doesn’t make sense, it’s because it’s a lie.” And someone is either lying or incredibly stupid at Chipotle. The Update on Food Safety on the Chipotle site stokes this concern and notes that with regard to the E.Coli scare in the states other than Oregon and Washington: “Despite these reports being later than the original, these are not believed to be a separate incident as all cases, including the originals in the Pacific Northwest, occurred between October 13 and November 10.”  So now, in the mind of the consumer who is already thinking Chipotle = E.Coli., they are now left to wonder: if it’s not an isolated incident, and there were several cases in the Pacific Northwest and a few in the East… what exactly is causing this?

The Chicken Solution
Chipotle has yet to fess up and say exactly what has caused the E.Coli. outbreak, and if they don’t do it fast, they might as well figure out a way to shutter up their business and close down. The fact of the matter that despite a feeble effort to keep the public informed, that Chipotle is no longer in control of the narrative of this story. A letter from the Chipotle founder, Steve Ells, posted nearly two months after the start of this debacle, doesn’t cut it either. In order to regain public trust and resuscitate their brand equity (and owner’s equity), what Chipotle needs to do is simple: pin it on a single ingredient or process. Saying something as simple as “it was the chicken” (or whatever ingredient.) Would clearly outline one thing in the minds of consumers: Chipotle = E.Coli. = Chicken. DONE. The solution for most consumers would be to avoid chicken at Chipotle, and slowly, Chipotle would begin to bounce back—or at least, have some hope of bouncing back from this episode.

Unfortunately, Chipotle leadership has failed to do this, instead opting to talk in abstract terms about food safety and central processing. I don’t know how to put this any more directly, but THAT’S NOT HELPING! Again, in the consumer’s mind, the only thing these discussions yield is more fear and raise more questions.

I can’t help but wonder, does the fact that Chipotle is engaging in a major food handling overhaul mean that, maybe, the restaurants weren’t clean to begin with? Are all the ingredients tainted? Maybe food wasn’t being handled well for years? After reading Chipotle propaganda about food safety, my brain doesn’t go anywhere good, and I am still left wondering: what the hell caused all this? With the bigger and more important question looming: what do “they” know and aren’t telling me? Because clearly, if they are spending millions to reset their entire operation, they must have discovered something wrong along the way.

I know you are thinking: yeah, but wouldn’t blaming it on the Chicken, eviscerate sales for Chipotle? The answer to that is no: Chipotle has had a very public shortage of pork (carnitas) for over a year, because the supplier was not up to Chipotle standard. Customers weathered this, and Chipotle turned a potentially negative sales killer into a positive PR move. The pork shortage didn’t hurt sales and didn’t hurt customer confidence. In fact, it helped to bolster customer confidence… until now. Now, every ingredient is suspect because Chipotle has given their clients no other option but to believe it is the processes and procedures that caused these outbreaks of E.Coli. and norovirus, and not any one ingredient.

The Bounceback
Chipotle, I truly (and sadly) believe, is finished, unless they can bounce back from this episode, and given their current strategy (or lack of strategy), I don’t believe that they on the proper trajectory to do so. Meanwhile, their stock is hemorrhaging value and corporate equity is evaporating at a rate nearly as fast as their brand equity. Stockholders aren’t going to sit by idly and watch their investment in this once-darling company, evaporate. The crisis solution for Chipotle is threefold:

  1. Get control of the narrative. Overhaul the Chipotle website and update it hourly for the foreseeable future with the latest and clearest information possible. Since this outbreak, not a single television commercial has aired for Chipotle. There should be an immediate advertising campaign to address the issue and regain the public trust. Silence in this case is deadly.
  2. Be clear about which ingredients or exactly which procedures caused this outbreak. Until this is clarified and addressed, Chipotle is playing with fire.
  3. Pay it forward. Open the doors and give it away. Regain the public trust by giving away a free lunch to anyone willing to take it. That will remind loyal customers about how tasty Chipotle food is, and will give Chipotle management a metric to measure the estimated duration of the potential rebound.

What are your thoughts about Chipotle and their recent struggles?

Tis the Season!

As we all prepare for the Christmas and Holiday season, we’ll inevitably have to wrap a gift or two in a jiffy.

The wrappers at one of my favorite Japanese department stores, Takashimaya, have perfected the art of quick wrapping (using only two pieces of tape!)

The first video shows the technique, and the second explains how to do it!