Stuff I Like

Friends and colleagues have been asking me questions like how my headphones “with the nice bass” are called or where I bought my XYZ, so I decided to compile a list of the things I like and recommend.

Introductory Words

While I hope you’ll find this compilation useful, I do not want to incite you to mindlessly buy more stuff you do not need. Buy experiences, not things. Spending two weeks of your summer in a surf camp on the coast of Bali, California, or France is more valuable than upgrading a merely one year old MacBook. Owning just a guitar and a songbook is still more fulfilling than buying that new drone you’ll use maybe once, then never again. The irresponsible consumerist society we’re living in is destroying our planet. Shopping addiction is more and more becoming a problem, now that a purchase is only a click away … only to fill our homes with stuff, so that we need bigger homes to store all that stuff. Ironically, bigger homes in turn lead to buying even more stuff, since there now is more empty space to be filled. On and on it goes, leading us to work longer and longer hours in order to afford the higher rent and increased living costs, while giving up time for the important things.

In the end, stuff is just exactly that. Stuff. More often than not, as soon as we have it, it’s of no interest to us anymore and we already have our eyes on the next thing to buy to fill the void. Always on the chase, never happy—this has become completely normal nowadays.

But still, something has to get the work done. You don’t want to be stuck with crappy equipment in those 50 weeks of the year that you’re not in Bali. And that’s totally fine. I don’t advocate for living like a hermit or buying only cheap. I’m just trying to live more consciously. So here’s a selection of items that add value to my life rather than merely fill up my space. If something lasts 10x longer or gives me 10x the value, I’ll gladly pay 2x the price. In the long run, that’s more economical and you save money making your buying decision like this.

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Computer Hardware

My main computer is a Mac.1 I left the Windows world many years ago and don’t see myself returning any time soon, even though I could get better hardware for a better price if I did. The macOS ecosystem is what makes me the most productive, not an increase in CPU clock rate by 200 or 500 MHz.2

I’ve written a blog post of its own on how I set up my Mac and what software I use.


My display is the Dell P2415Q. Even in 2019, it still is the best 4K monitor you can buy in its price range. I also use the AmazonBasics monitor arm so that I can swivel the computer monitor and repurpose it for watching movies in bed … one black mirror less in the appartement. The AmazonBasics monitor arm is identical to the much more expensive Ergotron, just without the logo/name.


It seems everyone and their mother is using the Logitech MX Master 2S mouse. This is indeed a great mouse, but unless you want to blow money for features you don’t use, ask yourself first whether you care for one of the following use cases:

  • Do you need that second wheel for horizontal scrolling? This is most useful for video editing, but can also be used for scrolling between browser tabs.
  • Do you plan to use your mouse on a difficult surface such as a glass table?

If you answered all questions with No, you don’t need the MX Master. You may still want it, but that’s a different topic. While the newer Darkfield sensor of the MX Master and MX Master 2S allows the mouse to work on glass surfaces, spending more money on a better sensor when you don’t even own a glass desk or a 4K display and therefore can’t make use of the improvements is like throwing pearls before swine. Technically, this new sensor allows for a higher resolution, i.e., more DPI, and the marketing blah promises a higher accuracy, but even professional gamers don’t use that high a DPI and dial it back because they simply don’t need or want it. Personally, I went for the more affordable Logitech M720 and don’t miss any features. Even on a 4K display, I never encountered a single situation where I thought, “Man, I wish I had spent more cash on my mouse. I could totally use more accuracy right now.” And the M720 has replacable batteries, in constrast to the the MX Master. Non-replacable batteries is something that always grinds my gears.

Update: My sister needed a mouse, so I gave her mine and got myself a Logitech G MX518.


I tend to get tendinitis when I use conventional keyboards, e.g., the built-in keyboard of the MacBook. That’s why I like to use an ergonomic keyboard.


I don’t own speakers anymore, since they are inferior to quality headphones anyway and I want to keep my setup simple and my possessions as few as possible. If you want good speakers, not just mediocre ones, you’d have to spend a couple hundred dollars whereas you can get top-notch headphones for only 100–150 bucks. I recommend the Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro (250 Ohm). These headphones are so comfortable that you can wear them for hours without any pain.

For having friends over or for listening in the kitchen, I recommend something portable like the JBL Charge.

Headphones for Noisy Environments

If you work in an open plan office or travel often, I’d get a pair of headphones with active noise cancelling. I use the Bose QC25. Compared with the Beyerdynamic headphones mentioned above, you sacrifice a little bit of audio quality, but the noise cancelling is worth the trade-off. Since I got my QC25, Bose has released a wireless successor, the QC35. Unfortunately, however, Bose decided to use non-replacable batteries in the QC25’s successors, so I don’t recommend the newer models. Lithium Ion batteries have a limited life span and when they die you can basically trash the entire pair of headphones, since Bose does not offer a battery replacement.

The wireless successors even sound worse than the wired QC25. This is because the Bluetooth protocol simply was not designed for transporting big chunks of data such as music. The data rate of the Bluetooth protocol is considerably smaller than Wi-Fi. To solve this problem, Bluetooth devices such as your cell phone or laptop compress the data before transferring it to a Bluetooth speaker. They do this using audio codecs, mostly lossy codecs. Modern and good-sounding, albeit lossy, audio codecs for Bluetooth devices are AAC or aptX HD. Of course, the receiving end (your headphones or portable speaker) needs to support these codecs too. While the Bose QC35 supports AAC, it does not support aptX … neither the high-definition nor the regular variant. This does not matter much if you’re listening only to music encoded into AAC, for example music you bought from the iTunes store, since it’s not necessary to re-encode your music and lose sound quality in the process. If you’re listening to music from other sources, however, you will lose sound quality. If you’re listening mostly to Spotify, MP3 files, or any other sound source in a different format than AAC, your music will be re-encoded with the shitty fallback codec SBC, since Bose doesn’t even support the non-HD variant of the aptX codec.

These two main issues—non-replaceable batteries and worse sound quality—as well as its more affordable price have me prefer the older model to the newer Bluetooth models. Still, I’m not a fan of Bose’s questionable business practices, so should my QC25 ever die, I will most likely look for some other brand than Bose.

Online Security

Since I’ve heard from quite a few people that they had their Facebook, Instagram, Email, etc. hacked, I strongly advise you to buy a Yubico Security Key. Basically, it’s a little thumb drive with a button that you plug into the USB port of your computer. Every time you log into an online account of yours that supports this stick (e.g., Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Dropbox, or GitHub) you have to press that button after entering your password. This means that even if someone manages to steal your password, they still can’t hack your account because they don’t have this physical device and thus can’t press its button.

Now that more and more parts of our lives are taking place on the internet, it is crucial to protect ourselves with more than merely an easy-to-guess password. I’m meaning to write a more detailed blog post about some basic security guidelines everyone should follow, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter to get notified when I release a new blog post.

File Storage

I don’t like external hardrives for permanent storage of my data. No matter their capacity, one day they will be full. If you shoot your photographs in a RAW format or rip your Blu-ray collection to get rid of your physical possessions, this day will come sooner than later. Manually moving your data to a new home is error-prone. Also, storing your most precious data on a single non-mirrored disk is dangerous. Should that disk fail, all your irreplacable data would be irretrievable lost. You definitely need a RAID system for your permanent storage to guard yourself against disk failure.

Since direct-attached storage (DAS) is too expensive for non-professionals, network-attached storage (NAS) is the way to go. With a NAS, the disks are not treated as individual disks but as one single enormously large disk. In case you run out of storage, you simply insert another disk in one of the free slots and the size of the volume grows with your data. No need to shuffle files around.

There are two main competitors in this market, QNAP and Synology where Synology has the much better operating system. I own a Synology DS918+, one of their 4-bay DiskStations from their 2018 lineup. Inside the NAS live Western Digital Red disks. Filled with four disks with a capacity of 10 TB each, the DS918+ has a theoretical maximum storage capacity of 40 TB. Due to the nature of RAID you always have to subtract the capacity of one disk, leaving you with an effective storage capacity of 30 TB.

With a 2-bay DiskStation like the DS218+, subtracting the capacity of one disk equals to cutting the capacity in half, leaving you with “only” 10 TB of actual storage space. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether you’ll exceed that 10 TB limit in the near future or whether a 2-bay NAS is sufficient for your current needs. However, you should bear in mind that while the DS918+ costs more upfront, it can end up actually being more affordable than the DS218+. Let’s assume you don’t need that ridiculous amount of 30 TB and that 10 TB are more than enough for you (for now). Let’s assume furthermore prices of 100 bucks for a 3 TB drive and 300 bucks for a 10 TB drive. Now, to get 10 TB out of a DS218+ you’d have to spend $600 ($300 times two). With a DS918+, you can get 9 TB for $400 ($100 times four). Therefore, if you can bear the difference of one TB, the money you save by means of the disks compensates for the higher upfront costs.

External Harddrives for Backups

For backup purposes I nevertheless use an external harddrive (Western Digital Elements Portable). A failing disk would, after all, take only a copy of my data, not the actual data itself. Now that SSDs are getting more affordable, it’s become reasonable to use SSDs for backups, too, to make use of [bootable backups]({% post_url 2016-12-11-my-backup-strategy %}#bootable-offline-backup).

For external disks there’s no use in buying a NVMe drive due to the transfer bottleneck. USB 3.0 with its transfer rate of 300 MB/s is already too slow to fully make use of the speed of a SATA disk (600 MB/s) let alone a 4x PCIe-disk with NVMe (3.94 GB/s). Even with USB 3.1 (900 MB/s), any NVMe disk would just be a massive overkill and a huge waste of money if you’d use it only as an external disk. Just get the Samsung 860 EVO and an enclosure that supports UASP.

If a small form factor is more important than anything to you, get the Samsung T5, although I’d advise against doing so. Its USB controller—the thing that almost always dies first—is soldered to the SSD, meaning that if that controller dies, you’ll not only have to throw a fully functioning SSD into the trash can, you cannot even retrieve your data.


I like to read a lot. Therefore, I used to own a Kindle Paperwhite. Nowadays, however, I read my ebooks on an iPad. While the Kindle’s e-ink display is very pleasant to look at, highlighting passages and taking notes is much easier on an iPad, which is more important to me.

Also, what I often like to do is getting the ebook and the audiobook version so that I can read along while I listen, with the words that are playing being highlighted on screen. It’s like watching a video with subtitles. Amazon calls this feature Immersion Reading. Immersion Reading is not possible with an actual Kindle device but only in the Kindle app for iOS/Android.3 Hence the iPad.

You can find my favorite books on a dedicated page.

And because [I transcribe a lot of what I read]({% post_url 2018-07-26-learning-how-to-learn %}), I use this book stand which can be used for the iPad as well as for actual books.


I used ballpoint pens for the longest time. However, my hand always started cramping after a while because of the amount of pressure I had to apply, especially when taking notes in university courses where you don’t have the time to be more mindful about your writing. So I made the switch to fountain pens, which has not only removed the cramps but also improved my handwriting significantly.

An all-time favorite is the Lamy Safari. I like the Lamy AL-Star even better (it’s made of aluminium instead of plastic). What I like about Lamy pens is that Lamy allows you to change the nib of their fountain pens. This is especially useful for math classes in which you could, for example, use a fine or medium nib for your regular writing and an extra-fine nib for indices and other mathematical notations. I also bought a converter which is used in place of the ink cartridge. With a converter you are no longer restricted to using the proprietary Lamy cartridges but can use the more affordable refill bottles, and even try out prettier or quicker drying inks from other brands, e.g., the color Shin-Kai from the Pilot Iroshizuku line.

In addition to taking notes for my classes, I also try to keep up the habit of daily journaling in form of writing some morning pages, gratitude logs, or whatever you want to call it. We often tend to focus only on the negative things that happen to us (e.g., “I missed the bus and was late to work today. Only bad things keep happening to me.") and forget entirely about the good things that are happening to us. Writing down what we’re grateful for each and every day forces us to pay attention to the good things in life we’d otherwise take for granted. Journaling takes only a few minutes a day and helps—together with meditating—to “cage the monkey mind”. A nice pen with some beautiful elegant ink that makes you look forward to writing with it helps with maintaining that habit. Since I’m investing that much time and energy in my writing, I want my notes, at the very least, to look good when I’m flipping through my notebooks and re-read old memories.

I also keep pen and paper handy at my bedside. This is my “When Next Online” notebook. When an idea strikes me after I’ve gone to bed, I quickly jot it down in a paper notebook and go back to sleep right away. I will not reach for an electronic device after I’ve switched off the lights because that will only kick off melatonin production, i.e., keep me awake. Also, I won’t get sucked into checking emails or other distractions just one last time.

Coffee and Tea

I’m an avid tea drinker. I drink coffee as well, but I prefer green tea for its health benefits. Especially after noon. Caffeine has a half life of about 6 hours, meaning that if you drink a cup of coffee even as early as 10 AM, there’s still a remaining 25% of that coffeine in your body 12 hours later, i.e., at 10 PM, the time you actually want to go to sleep. It’s as if, right before going to bed, you drank a quarter of your usual cup of coffee. This prevents you from reaching a state of deep sleep.

Deep sleep may be even more important than REM sleep because it is in this state that the body clears out the toxic protein in your brain that has accumulated over the course of the day. If you drink caffeine after noon, you’re depriving your brain of this important cleansing, which may ultimately lead to Alzheimer’s disease in your senior years. Although it’s not yet understood what exactly causes this terrible disease, Alzheimer’s is said to be the cognitive decline that begins when there is too much of this toxic protein (called amyloid beta) in your brain, which then destroys your neurons.

Since you brew green tea at only 70–80 °C (which is not hot enough to extract the coffeine), you can drink it even in the evening despite the fact that it theoretically contains coffeine. That is, green tea will not hinder the state of deep sleep and thus will not prevent the cleansing of your brain. As opposed to coffee, green tea also contains theanine (and tannins) which is why green tea is so relaxing—especially when you add honey and Apple Cider Vinegar to your tea. Theanine is also what makes you feel energized and yet calm rather than all jittery. That’s why I also supplement Theanine in form of a pill in case I had one cup of coffee too many.

I like to always take some tea with me when I leave the house for work/university. The best travel mug for coffee or tea, in my opinion, is the Zojirushi SM-SD. I’ve tried a few other mugs before, e.g., the Contigo, and they all leaked inside my backpack. To brew the tea I use a french press to give the loose tea leaves enough room to brew. To brew coffee I use the pour over technique and a Melitta Ceramic Dripper. The main reason why I use it rather than a Chemex or a Kalita dripper is that it doesn’t require special, expensive filters but works with regular filters from the supermarket.

Water Bottle

Tap water is the most regulated and safest water to drink here in Germany where I live. There’s no added fluoride like in the U.S. or in Canada and it’s safer than store-bought mineral water like Evian, Volvic, or Gerolsteiner, which often contain germs, pesticides, or even Uranium. There are many documentaries about the problems with bottled water and the business practices of companies like Nestlé. Apart from the obvious problems with plastics such as the environmental pollution and chemicals seeping out of the bottle into the water you’re going to drink, there’s also the problem of microplastics. Therefore, I drink tap water only and use a reusable water bottle from Hydro Flask (size 40 Oz. ≈ 1 liter). It’s insulated and keeps cold drinks cold, meaning I don’t have to drink luke-warm water on hot summer days.

Its price tag might seem high at first—after all, it’s just a water bottle—but if you do the math, you will realize that you will break even very quickly and save real money from then on. If you drink at least 2 liters of water a day like any adult should, you’d spend at least 2 bucks a day for water in case you’d buy bottled water, i.e., $60 per month, which is insane. So the break-even point occurs within the first month. Even earlier if you drink more than 2 liters a day. After the first month you can drink water practically for free. Bonus effect: no more hauling of heavy water bottles to your appartment.

Health Tracking

I use an Oura ring to track my sleep times and, more importantly, my sleep quality. Due to the stress and work load in university, I didn’t always sleep very well and was chronically underslept. The book Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker (the guy from the videos in the coffee section), however, really opened my eyes in that regard. If you read only one book this year, make it Why We Sleep. We all know the mantra “you can sleep when you’re dead”, and if you adhere to this ill advice, dead is indeed what you’re going to be … sooner rather than later, at that. Think about it. What is all the hustling good for if it never pays off? During high school, you’ve worked your ass off to get accepted into that particular university; there, you work tirelessly for your bachelor’s degree, then for your PhD … and all the while, that thing is coming, that thing is coming … just to die at age 50, because you skimped on sleep and never cared for exercise or a healthy diet.

Of course, having read this book didn’t suddenly release me from my obligations or make more time available to me, but it made me realize that I can (and should) at least be more mindful regarding my sleep hygiene. That is to say, in my case, do I really need to reach 100% in that homework assignment or can I live with “only” 80% and get a proper night’s sleep in exchange? Is ruthless ambition and aiming (too) high advisable, or is it only going to set me up to fail and ruining my health along the way? We’ll see how this change of mind works out when I’m applying for jobs at the big tech companies 😃 What I’ve learned is that I don’t even want to work at companies anymore that make me pull all-nighters and sleep under my desk, no matter how big their name. No amount of money is worth that.

There are apps like Sleep Cycle which use your phone’s microphone to more or less accurately track your sleep times. If you own an Apple Watch, you could also use the excellent AutoSleep to measure your sleep quality (based on movement) and heart rate (from the embedded sensor in the Apple Watch) and see how well you slept. But after having read Why We Sleep and having listened to some interviews with Dr. Matthew Walker (e.g., on The Kevin Rose Show or The Joe Rogan Experience), I wanted to do this as good as possible and ordered the Oura ring.

Being a ring, it can scan the arteries much better than a loosely sitting wrist strap. It can thus measure your sleep quality much more accurately than wrist-worn fitness trackers that usually scan just the veins. Fitness trackers that are worn on the wrist are great, but there’s only so much they can do. For instance, they cannot track Heart Rate Variability (HRV). HRV is a very good index for willpower, self-control, fatigue/recovery, or “readiness” for pushing yourself. For example, if I have a low HRV, I haven’t fully recovered yet and hitting the gym on such a day would lead to overtraining. My training would be much more effective if I waited a day or two until I have a higher HRV before I’d go to the gym again. On a low-HRV day, my time would be spent wiser if I instead took care of some dull tasks like grocery shopping or clearing my email inbox, since hitting the gym would probably only result in a worse-than-average training anyway. Measuring this readiness and recovery status is the other thing where the Oura ring really shines (in addition to sleep tracking).

If you’re into that sort of biohacking, check out this little review by Kevin Rose of the (now superseded) first version of the ring.

Mobile Phone

A peculiar case of the beforementioned madness, in my eyes, is upgrading a $1000 cell phone each and every year. Remember how excited you were when you first got that phone of yours only one year ago? And now, merely one year later, you’ve successfully talked yourself into believing it’s not good enough anymore. This is 100% a mental thing. Nowadays, people upgrade because their phone is not the very latest model anymore; because now there’s someone out there who has something nicer than what they have. Not because their phone was broken and certainly not because they all of a sudden needed more CPU power in their phone to read their Twitter feed or to run the Instagram app.

Smartphones are poorly named anyway. They really should be called smartcameras. When you ask people why they upgrade their phone when their current one is only one year old and fully functional, they will probably answer, “because it has a better camera.” But really the underlying reason is most likely a combination of greed and envy.

If you’re truly upgrading mainly because of the better picture quality, then you’d be better off (at least in my opinion) with a combination of a smartphone—or should I say pocket computer—and a tiny form-factor camera such as the Sony RX100 that can transfer the images wirelessly to your “pocket computer” for editing and sharing while on the go. This way you can still upload your snapshots to Instagram on the spot. You even get a better picture quality.4

Yet the reality looks like this: people buy $1000 phones; then, a year later, when the new model has been released, they complain that their pictures only look like taken with a phone and don’t quite match the quality of an actual, proper camera; they therefore rationalize their spending $1000 on a newer, better phone as being necessary (instead of solving the problem at its roots). Only to replace it a year after that yet again. This is insane to me.

If you want a camera that takes pictures which don’t look like taken with a phone, then get a camera, not a phone. Your current “pocket computer” can already handle your everyday tasks like making phone calls, playing music/audiobooks/podcasts, or displaying your calendar events and shopping list well enough. Upgrading your smartphone will not make it any better in those regards. Save those $1000 every year and use them instead to upgrade to a newer revision of the RX100 every now and then. Shelling out one thousand bucks (let that sink in for a minute) every year is, to me, only worth it if it’s too much of a hassle for you to carry two dedicated devices instead of having one combined device. That convenience costs you a hefty price though.

Apps I Use

To see an overview of the apps I use, see this page.

Camera Gear

I do understand the technical aspects of photography well enough but I’m no professional.

Every-Day Camera

There are different cameras for different purposes, but the camera I enjoy using the most is the Sony RX100, as I have described here. It takes phenomenal images, outshines many DSLRs, and since it’s so tiny that it fits in your jeans or jacket pocket perfectly, it truly is a camera you can always have with you.

I used to use a clunky big Canon DSLR, but it wasn’t even the size or its weight that made me switch to Sony … the far more decisive factor for an every-day camera was the superior autofocus of Sony cameras. With my Canon I had missed quite a few shots—the laugh of a family member, the look in the eyes of a loved one, et cetera—because my slow Canon was trying forever to focus, and when it finally had, the moment was gone. In such short-lived situations, half a second can make all the difference between catching or missing the shot. However, the RX100 is “just” a point-and-shoot camera, so for shooting landscapes when on vacation there are of course better cameras with bigger sensors than the 1” sensor of a compact camera. But that’s not the point. When I’m out and about with friends, I just want to be able to take high-quality (group) pictures, images of higher quality than any of our cell phones can produce. What I don’t want is to bring an unwieldy camera bag with me. What I also don’t need (in that situation) is the ability to change the lens, say, for a 250 mm telephoto lens. Like I’ve said, different cameras for different purposes.

You get the best bang for the buck with the RX100 Mark III. If you have the money, get the more recent Mark IV instead; it brings the extremely good Eye AF to the RX100, has a better display, and fixes some annoyances with the Mark III (e.g., the camera doesn’t shut down anymore just because you closed the viewfinder) which could easily be fixed by a firmware update but haven’t been so far. The Mark IV is a very solid update, but the biggest improvements focus on the camera’s video capability, e.g., added 4K support. If you’re only shooting stills, are on a budget and can live with the minor annoyances, I’d say go with the Mark III. The RX100 Mark V and later revisions are still very expensive and while they’re of course very good cameras, they are, to me, not worth their current price. The newer revisions from Mark V onwards now use the better Phase Detect autofocus instead of Contrast Detect autofocus, but their main improvements are the video capabilities and “gimmicks” like the possibility to flip the display such that you can see it when taking pictures of your food from a high angle—not exactly something I desperately waited for.

While I like having the option to transfer images wirelessly to my phone, that’s not a crucial feature to me either. I don’t live just to upload my life to social media in the instant it happens … and the pictures I do want to share—not necessarily on social media—I transfer to my computer anyway and rather edit them there.


My favorite camera strap is the Luma Loop. I transport my camera gear in this camera bag.

Camera Bag

I don’t use a dedicated camera backpack. Instead, I use this camera insert that I just need to grab from the shelf and throw in my regular every-day backpack whenever I want to bring my camera along.

One point is that I simply don’t own enough lenses to justify a full-blown camera backpack. But my main problem with such camera backpacks is that they offer too little storage space for other everyday items like a jacket, water bottle, lunch, books, or bike lights. I’m not a professional photographer who wants to bring his entire gear to a gig. I just want to carry my camera along with my other stuff so that—when an opportunity presents itself—I’m able to take some high-quality pictures. The best camera is the one you have with you, not the one you left at home in that giant camera backpack. By repurposing my regular backpack I’m also not outing myself as a tourist carrying expensive gear when in a foreign country, basically begging to be robbed.

Backpacks and Travel

I used to use a simple backpack with a single large compartement. I still use that backpack for my grocery shopping, but for carrying your laptop to work or university every day you’ll want more protection as well as better organization for all your adapters, sunglasses, umbrella, et cetera. Since I’ve moved to the other side of the country for university, I also travel much more frequently and need a solid, lightweight solution for when visiting friends and family.

Every-Day Backpack

I’ve tried and sold a few backpacks, but so far none of them has knocked my socks off. So if you have a good recommendation for an every-day backpack, feel free to shoot me a message on Twitter. I prefer backpacks to messenger bags, since messenger bags do not distribute the weight evenly which is a dealbreaker to me. Before you mention the Peak Design Everyday Backpack—yes, I’m aware of it, and no, I don’t like it.

My current choice is the Borealis by The North Face. It has a capacity of 28 liters, which is enough to fit my every-day carry without leading to overpacking. My every-day carry includes a laptop, headphones, a large water bottle, a travel mug, home-cooked lunch, a Kindle or iPad, one or two books, sometimes a binder for lecture notes, a couple of pens, my camera insert as well as bike lights and, on rainy days, rain pants. The material the Borealis is made of is 420D nylon (the higher the number the more scrub resistant and tearproof the material). For comparison, the substantially more expensive Peak Design Everyday Backpack is made of 400D nylon. Still, 420D nylon is not leather, sailcloth, or waxed canvas—you’d have to look closer to the 300 USD price range if you wanted that—but the price of the backpack remains more appropriate for a college student.

Carry-on Backpack for Travelling

I don’t own any suitcases anymore. I travel exclusively with carry-on backpacks. That is because I don’t want to have to check-in my luggage when travelling by airplane or long-distance bus. On arrival, instead of having to wait for my luggage to first show up, I just leave. In addition to the time and baggage fees a carry-on backpack will save you, you will also never again have to deal with dragging a suitcase over cobblestone or hauling that heavy thing up multiple flights of stairs.

In my opinion, the Tortuga Setout seems to be the best carry-on backpack—check out this amazing review—and is superior to the Minaal, GORUCK, Tortuga Outbreaker, or the more affordable Osprey backpacks.

Unfortunately for people living outside the U.S., Tortuga stopped shipping internationally for the time being. Great alternatives are the Router and the Router Transit by The North Face. Their current revisions are practically identical, so get whichever one is better available (the Router Transit has a capacity of 41 liters, the Router has 40 liters but a handle on the front).

Packing Cubes

If you travel, you need packing cubes. They are great for organizing your clothes and prevent your underwear from falling out of your backpack when you just wanted to grab your jacket or umbrella. The packing cubes from AmazonBasics get the job done perfectly. No need to spend more money than necessary.

Blue Light Blocking

You’re probably familiar with f.lux and similar applications that reduce the amount of blue light a device’s display emits. Light, especially blue light, increases the cortisol production in your body which in turn suppresses the production of melatonin. If your melatonin levels are too low when it’s time to go to bed, you will have difficulties falling asleep.

To fall asleep you need two things: enough adenosine and enough melatonin. Adenosine builds up naturally over the course of the day. It is what makes you feel fatigue after a certain threshold is crossed at around 16 hours of wakefulness. To actually fall asleep when that moment has come, you also need sufficient melatonin. Melatonin does not make you tired, it merely opens the window of opportunity. On its own, without adenosine, melatonin won’t do anything. You need the combination of both hormones at the right time. High levels of adenosine, without melatonin, will leave you feeling groggy and sleep-deprived but nevertheless unable to fall asleep, simply because that window isn’t open. This feeling is exactly what’s known as jet lag when travelling across time zones. Such situations—a high build-up of adenosine combined with low levels of melatonin—occur when you’ve been exposed to light when the body’s internal clock (known as the circadian rhythm) expected night instead. You need darkness to allow the release of melatonin. However, with today’s artificial lighting and us spending our last few hours before we go to sleep each day in front of some electronic device, our circadian rhythms are notoriously disrupted. If this topic is your thing, I cannot recommend the book Why We Sleep highly enough.

Fact is, not only our computers and devices emit high-intensity blue light but also our light bulbs. There are special bulbs that reduce blue light or even eliminate it entirely. The most common of these special light bulbs are the Philips Hue light bulbs. They are great, because they have a low melanopic impact. Now what does this mean? Our eyes are excited by light mainly in the blue portion of the visible spectrum. The absorption of light peaks at around 480 nanometers, meaning this wavelength (blue light) is the worst for our sleep rythm. This has to do with evolution and the way our eyes were first created when life on earth was just single-celled bacteria in the ocean swimming away from DNA-damaging sunlight. 480 nanometers is the wavelength of light that travels furthest through ocean water.

In our eyes, there’s a light sensitive protein called melanopsin which is what makes the retinal ganglion cells photosensitive, i.e., reactive to light. The Philips Hue light bulbs don’t stimulate that protein as much as regular light bulbs, i.e., they don’t trigger that state of alertness as much as other light bulbs.

You can even go one step further with Philips Hue. While all light is bad for falling asleep, red light is the least bad. This again has to do with evolution (and with prehistoric men sleeping next to campfires), since the later in the day the warmer the light becomes. If set to red, the Philips Hue bulbs emit light at 626 nanometers, i.e., they show no blue light at all. Thus I’ve set up my Philips Hue to automatically switch to red colors come nighttime. It has to be pure red though. Any other light setting, even if the light is marketed as “warm” light, still has a significant amount of blue in it. The White Ambiance version of Philips Hue (the cheaper ones that produce only different shades of white) won’t help, since the kind of an orange color they produce at their lowest temperature setting is not sufficient. Be sure to buy the White and Color Ambiance version (the regular ones that produce color). I also recommend the FEIT red light for your bedside lamp where you don’t have the need for setting the light to white during the day. They are perfect for reading in bed the last 1–2 hours of the day or waking up at night. For more information, head to the f.lux forums or the Hue subreddit.

If you want to take it to the extreme, wear these glasses when working at the computer late at night. Yes, they are ugly as hell, and yes, there are way more attractive glasses such as Gamma Ray or Gunnar; but the linked UVEX SCT Orange are one of the very few glasses that actually work (UVEX vs Gamma Ray vs Gunnar).

Fun fact: Philips is an industry partner of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute and helps them combat sleep deprivation and insomnia in NASA astronauts.


I like doing yoga. It helps me with my posture, makes me more flexible and clears my mind after a stressful day. I have the best nights of sleep when I end my day with an hour of yoga at the studio and use their sauna for 10–15 minutes afterward.

But you don’t even need to join a studio. There are so many awesome youtube channels with great instructors out there that you can practise anytime in your home or in the park. My favorite channels are:

Just use a mat to protect your joints from the hard floor and your skin from scraping. There are basically three main brands if you want a quality mat: Manduka, JadeYoga, and Lululemon. I wish I had bought the JadeYoga Harmony. I got myself the Manduka PROlite, but I wouldn’t buy it again. While I’m extremely happy with it now, it was just too damn slippery out of the box and it took quite some work to fix that by repeatedly scrubbing it with vinegar and salt.

Yes, these mats seem expensive at first, but it’s a one-time investment that will last for years. As I said at the beginning, if something adds value to my life I’m willing to spend a little bit more. Please, just don’t buy a cheap mat. Your face will be close to the mat a lot and you don’t want to rub your face in a combination of your own sweat and the plasticizers that cheap mats are oozing. There definitely is a reason why good quality mats are expensive, and it’s not marketing (well, not entirely). Believe me, if you buy cheap, you will buy twice.

Home Gym

You don’t necessarily need to pay for a gym membership. You don’t need a thousand different machines and barbells to get in shape. A few exercises that work your entire body are way more effective than training each individual muscle in isolation. You also don’t need their treadmill to go for a run. Just step outside your door and jog through your neighborhood. Maybe you find some park or a forest. Running outside is less monotonous anyway.

It’s amazing how much you can accomplish just with kettlebells: kettlebell swings, Turkish get-ups, squats, deadlifts, and so much more. Paying monthly for a gym membership accumulates to a lot of money over the course of a year. If you’re a broke college student, investing in one or two good kettlebells instead can be a more sensible decision.

Dragon Door kettlebells are the gold-standard. Rogue kettlebells are also very good while being a bit more affordable. I recommend a Dragon Door kettlebell (24 kg / 53 lb) for kettlebell swings and another Dragon Door kettlebell (12 kg / 26 lb or 16 kg / 35 lb) for one-armed exercises. If it starts getting too easy, do 10 repetitions more. And 10 more. And 10 more. You will find that you can make do on just two kettlebells for a very long time before you actually need to buy another one.

Next, get some gymnastic rings that you can attach to some pole at a near playground. Combine that with yoga at home with free YouTube teachers and you don’t need to spend a single dollar on staying active (after the initial purchases).

What I also recommend is getting a doorway pull-up bar, even if it’s only for doing some passive hanging at the end of the day to open up and decompress your spine before going to sleep. Everyone should try to hang for a total of 7 minutes every day to open up their shoulders and to compensate for hunching over a computer. It’s not difficult. Thirty seconds here, thirty seconds there; thirty seconds when you go get another cup of coffee, another thirty seconds when you take a bathroom break, etc. It really makes a difference.

Barefoot Shoes

Now, I know a lot of folks don’t like them and quite a few people have told me straight to my face that these are downright ugly, but I couldn’t care less what other people are thinking about them … I exclusively wear Vibram FiveFingers, specifically the KSO Evo model. Just google “barefoot shoes” and inform yourself about “heel striking” and what damage conventional shoes are causing. My health is more important to me than the glances other people are throwing at me. Wearing these shoes is also a wonderful practice of applying stoic philosophy to my life 😃


I find wet shaving gives me the cleanest results. Gillette razors, or any other razors from the drug store, are just a rip-off though. In their business model, the product itself is very inexpensive or even given away for free but requires you to buy expensive refills until the day you die in order to keep the item working—same as with inkjet cartridges.

Instead, I liked the idea of traditional wet shaving; shaving like our grandfathers did. In my mind, I picture an old-school barbershop. It feels kind of manly to me. It’s also sort of a lost art that I wanted to learn. And the razor blades are just so much cheaper.

First, you need a so-called Double-Edge Razor (aka Safety Razor). There’s a heated discussion among shaving enthusiasts which brand is the best, much like car enthusiasts cannot agree on which brand is the best. For beginners, the most recommended razors are the Edwin Jagger DE89 and Mühle R89. They are practically identical, since they both have exactly the same head. A pack of 100 blades costs you next to nothing and will last you almost infinitely, since you can reuse a blade 5–10 times before it loses its edge. I use the Astra Superior Platinum razor blades. There’s also the more expensive Feather razor blades, but they are extremely sharp and very aggressive and thus not suitable for a beginner in traditional wet shaving. And there are also more forgiving and mild blades like the Derby Extra blades which, however, don’t produce shaves as clean as the Astra Superior Platinum. Since the mentioned razors already are very mild and beginner-friendly razors, I think the Astra Superior Platinum razor blades are the best choice.

If you really want to treat yourself, get yourself a shaving brush made of badger hair as well as shaving soap. There are four different grades of quality for shaving brushes, ranked from cheapest to most expensive: Pure Badger, Best Badger, Super Badger, and Silvertip Badger. I’d get a Best Badger brush, since with Pure Badger brushes the bristles will start falling out after 4–5 months. An oft-recommended shaving soap is the Proraso shaving soap. However, it contains some harmful ingredients, just as virtually any commercial shaving product. So, if you’d rather like to use a completely natural lubricant, my recommendation is to ditch brush and soap altogether and just shave with olive oil (and use Apple Cider Vinegar as aftershave).

If you want to read more, check out the forum Badger & Blade or the wet shaving subreddit.

Kitchen Utensils

What you put in determines what you get out. What is true for so many areas is also true for nutrition. You can’t expect your brain and body to operate at peak performance when you don’t provide them with the necessary fuel, i.e., when you eat only trash.

Instant Pot

My Instant Pot DUO60 is one of the best purchases I ever made. I eat lots of rice, quinoa, beans, lentils, chickpeas, potatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc. and they all turn out just perfect in the Instant Pot.

A Sharp Knife

After the Instant Pot, a really sharp knife is the second best item that makes my cooking life just so much easier. Lots of people are afraid of sharp knives because they think they are only going to hurt themselves. This fear is unsubstantiated. Actually, it’s exactly the opposite. Of course you still need to be careful, but since a sharp knife glides so effortlessly through the food, you do not need to apply much pressure. With dull knives you need to apply much more pressure, so it’s much more likely that you slip off and really hurt yourself.

Spare your money for entire sets of knives or fancy kitchen appliances like food processors; all you really need is one single sharp knife. Unless you cook for more than 6 persons, it takes longer to clean the food processor afterward than the time it saves you. As I’ve said before, I’d rather have just one expensive but extremely sharp knife that can cut everything than spend the same money on ten mediocre knives.

The best knives come from Japan and Germany. Well-respected brands are Global (Japanese) and Wüsthof (German). Japanese knives are sharper and stay sharp longer, but they require more knowledge/skill to maintain them. You can make a lot of mistakes and even destroy a knife entirely if you, for example, put it in the dishwasher or sharpen it the wrong way. Therefore, if this is your first good knife, I wouldn’t start right away with the most expensive knife but with a more affordable one to “learn the craft”. German knives are a bit more forgiving, so they’re what I recommend.

Next, there are two styles of knives: the Western chef’s knife and the more Japanese-looking Santoku knife. The choice comes down to personal preference. The curved cutting edge of a chef’s knife allows for a back-and-forth rocking motion. With a Santoku knife the cutting edge is almost straight, so it’s more of a chopping motion. Otherwise, they are practically interchangeable.

If you want to go with Wüsthof, there’s the more expensive line Classic IKON and the slightly less expensive line Grand Prix II with a lighter handle. The quality of the blade is the same. The only difference is that you get a more premium handle with the higher priced knives. Depending on your budget and whether you want a regular kitchen knife or a Santoku knife, I would recommend the 4596/20 or the 4176/17 from the Classic IKON line or the more affordable 4585/20 or 4175/17 from the Grand Prix II line.

Even the sharpest and most expensive knife will become dull eventually after you’ve put it to use for some time. It is inevitable. So if you want to really up your cooking game, learn to use a whetstone. When the knife starts to become dull, use a whetstone with a 1000/6000 grit combination, e.g., this one, to make it sharp again.


To get all my vitamins and micronutrients, I drink a lot of smoothies. A good blender is indispensable for that.

  1. I’m not going to brag about which exact model I have or how big my SSD is or how many CPU cores I have, because … what’s the point? Everybody’s requirements are different. Get the model that fulfills your needs, not mine. ↩︎

  2. If anything, I’d switch to GNU/Linux rather than to Windows, but there’s just too much useful software that is not available for Linux, so a full-time switch to Linux is also unlikely in the foreseeable future. ↩︎

  3. E-ink displays are not capable of refreshing so often as required for using this feature. ↩︎

  4. Sony supplies the sensors for the iPhone. Now imagine what they can do in an actual camera without the size constraints. ↩︎

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